The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East

The Allman Brothers Band

Capricorn Records, 1971

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


1971 proved to be a bittersweet year for The Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East captures the highest moments of the year for the group. The band's first live disc (and third release overall), this two-record set (yes, I'm working from an ancient vinyl copy) shows off just how powerful a live act Gregg and Duane Allman and company could be. It also serves as a painful reminder of how good a guitarist Duane Allman was; just a few short months after these concerts were recorded, he would be killed in a motorcycle accident.

The Allmans had constantly lived their musical life on the edge, refusing to stick with one particular genre or another. Over the course of these songs, the Allmans all but declare themselves to be a blues band with serious jazz overtones - as well as a band who knew how to jam. At times, they do show that even jams can be stretched out far beyond their welcome - but more on that in a little bit.

In a sense, the Allmans had something to prove on this outing. Their second disc Idlewild South paled in comparison to their self-titled debut. The spark had to be re-lit to keep people interested - and that spark first manifests itself in "Statesboro Blues," a number which sometimes feels like it has the power to raise the dead. Gregg Allman's whiskey-tinged vocals make it sound like he was the absolute perfect person to sing the blues, adding a touch of raucousness as well as playful abandon to the song.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But the true power of the band came in their extended jams, albeit in possibly a faulty form. According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine at All-Music Guide, producer Tom Dowd did edit some of the tracks on this release, even suggesting that different performances from different nights were intermixed. While this might create for good jams (and Erlewine even gives his approval to the final results), I question if this is indeed an accurate portrait of what the Allman Brothers Band were doing at this stage in their career. (No need to let me know how many other albums have been similarly doctored; there's enough in the world to upset me as it is.) Anyhow, the original versions have since been made available on The Fillmore Concerts, a set we'll eventually get to here.

All of this said, one has to admit that the tracks do sound cohesive - had I not known about Dowd's edits, I'd have sworn I was listening to the legitimate article and would have happily grooved to such tracks as "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" and "You Don't Love Me," two ten-minute-plus tracks whose time seems to fly by.

The only time when this strategy fails the Allmans is on their classic "Whipping Post" - more precisely, in the last few minutes of the song, when the extended chords and jamming just hits the creative wall. I don't mind artists taking liberties with their music; I do mind, though, when the end result has me almost screaming at the record for the band to wake up and wrap the song up.

Some might see The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East as the first sign the band was leaning towards the infant "Southern rock" genre thanks to the track "Hot 'Lanta" - a belief which is sorely mistaken. One listen to the track and its blues-jazz roots will prove otherwise. In fact, I'd dare to suggest that the group might not have taken such a strong turn towards Southern rock and pseudo-country had Duane Allman lived - keep in mind, "Ramblin' Man," the group's best-received song on the charts, was thanks to Dickey Betts.)

The Allman Brothers Band proved with this set that they were a live act who were at the top of their game, and I'm willing to bet they were an absolute joy to witness first-hand. If only Duane Allman had lived to fully enjoy the band's glory days. Even when the songs occasionally wear out their welcome - which happens only once - this album proves itself to be one of the best live discs out there, even 31 years after it was released.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


I didn't realize this was going to be a A review. I read it and it sounds to me like the reviewer has problems with this album.

© 2002 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 Capricorn Records, and is used for informational purposes only.