Live At Ludlow Garage 1970

The Allman Brothers Band

Polydor Records, 1991

http://www.allmanbrothersband.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/06/1998

It sometimes amazes me how much time has passed since certain bands have appeared on "The Daily Vault". (Even more shocking at times is the list of artists who we have yet to feature once.) One such case is the Allman Brothers Band, one of the forefathers of Southern rock; it's been well over a year since they graced these pages. So, into the Pierce Memorial Archives, and out with one I haven't touched in some time, Live At Ludlow Garage 1970.

To some people, the Allman Brothers Band created the ultimate live album back in 1971 with their Live At Fillmore East effort - and to be sure, it would be a tough one to top. But a tape discovered during the organization of the Dreams box set just quite possibly did top it - even though it is a little too trippy and self-indulgent at times.

The sound quality of the show, recorded at the once-legendary Cincinnati concert hall, is admittedly not the best; you can hear many limitations in the two-track recording (including tape hiss and dropout). But in a sense, this is what endears this show to me more - the fact that it's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 not perfect makes it more so. The raw sound of the show makes it sound like you are there, 20 feet from the stage - that's something I don't think that Fillmore East was able to capture.

This particular show is from around the time that the band was just getting ready to burst forth onto the scene. Thus, there was no pressure to live up to pre-packaged expectations. It was music for music's sake, and the jam often was the thing. I don't know if the album presents the complete show, but even 90 minutes tires you out as a listener.

For one thing, Live At Ludlow Garage 1970 reaffirms the fact that Berry Oakley was one of the best bass guitarists around. No disrespect is meant to the late Lamar Williams (who came into the band after Oakley's death in a motorcycle accident), but Oakley's style most definitely fit the band the best. From the sound of things on the side-long closer "Mountain Jam," Oakley manipulated his four-stringer in incredibly funky directions that many people probably would never have even considered.

Of course, the brothers Allman (Gregg on vocals and organ, Duane on slide guitar) are the centerpieces, and their work on this album alone almost justifies them for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. The lengthened "Dreams" and a cover of Muddy Waters's "Trouble No More" are two of my favorites on this release. Dickey Betts's guitar also adds a special edge to the music - a primer, if you will, for the sad role he would eventually have to take in the band. The manic drumming of Butch Trucks and Jai Johnny Johanson is astounding - more than once, you find yourself wondering how one person is producing that much percussion, that's how well they blended together.

But the heart of the Allman Brothers Band turns out to be their tragic flaw on Live At Ludlow Garage 1970; some of the extended songs needed to be seriously lopped. A personal favorite of mine, "Statesboro Blues," is stretched way too thin after the supposed ending of the song. Sorry, gang, but you should have left well enough alone and stopped there. They do the same thing to "Dimples," and even the classic "Mountain Jam" seems a bit overbearing. Sometimes, less is indeed more - too bad that lesson wasn't applied on occasion here.

Live At Ludlow Garage 1970 is ideally aimed at those who grew up with the early edition of the Allmans or who had the luck to see them perform live. If you're just getting into the Allmans, you might want to wait on this one for just a little bit - allow yourself to get acquainted with them first, then dive in.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polydor Records, and is used for informational purposes only.