SUNY At Stonybrook: Stonybrook, NY 9/19/71

The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company, 2003

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Around the turn of the century, the Allman Brothers started their own record label for all future new releases. This also gave them a chance to unearth archive live performances, an opportunity they took as a way to showcase the band's early live gigs with Duane Allman as a way to showcase his amazing talents.

That point was never in question, of course; Duane Allman was one of the great guitarists of his generation, a bluesman with few peers (and almost no American peers) and a slide guitar player extraordinaire. His tenure with the group only lasted a few years, two studio albums and one stunning live album (also the best of its generation) and some brief appearances on Eat A Peach, released after his death by motorcycle crash.

The SUNY At Stonybrook concerts (there were two on this day) took place five weeks before that crash and are most notable for an 11-minute performance of the new song "Blue Sky," which was released on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Eat a Peach. This show also several months after Live at Fillmore East redefined live records and broke the band through to a larger audience.

All of the live shows the Allmans have released from this 1970-71 time period have pretty much the same set list, and this double-disc 100-minute set is no exception, save for "Blue Sky." As with any jam band, the joy is not so much in hearing another version of "Statesboro Blues" but in the spontaneity of the performances and the subtle differences that underscore the firm foundations of each song.

Really, the only question each night would be in which direction Allman and Dickey Betts would take their solos, or which song they would choose to extend. Here, they bust out solo after solo on all 25 minutes of "You Don't Love Me" and extend the seminal "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" to 20 minutes. The first five songs follow the Fillmore sets pretty closely and are fairly short, digestible introductions to what made the Allman so special in their heyday, particularly "One Way Out," one of their great covers of all time.

The playing is superb, greater than the sum of the parts, although the jams can stretch on without necessity at times (as on "Stormy Monday"). Similarly, although it is nice to have "Dreams" here (one that was not played often live), the first chorus is pretty rough, Gregg Allman either forgetting the words or off in his own world prior to the solo section. It's also disappointing that "Whipping Post" wasn't played on this night, as that remains the highlight of the band's early jam-length songs live.

The sound quality of the first couple of songs is pretty rough but gets better throughout, an issue that could have been fixed post-production but was not, owing to the authenticity of the playing. As always, At FIllmore East and/or The Complete Fillmore Recordings are the absolute pinnacle of this live time period, but SUNY at Stonybrook captures a specific moment in the autumn of 1971 that fans will no doubt want to relive. Newcomers should start elsewhere, but the faithful will no doubt enjoy this, even if, outside of the evolving "Blue Sky," it rarely offers anything new or vital.

Rating: B

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