Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East 1971

Sometimes it can be challenging to keep up blogging at least once a week. I often tell myself I'm just going to pull out some old favorite and rattle off a quick one. At times like this, the record I most often think I'll review is this one, At Fillmore East.

There are many reasons that I think of the record as a classic, and deserving of its status as such. But the real reason I think I love this record so much is that I was 16 when it came out. And we all listened to it all the time. And I never got sick of it. It has avoided being played to death on classic rock stations because of song length, and we're all the better for it.

Side one blasts off with Statesboro Blues, all swinging blues swagger. "If you can't make it, baby, Your sister Lucille certainly want to go", and Duane Allman's crazy good slide guitar. Done Somebody Wrong follows, with guest harmonica by Thom Doucet, and guitar solos from both Allman and Dicky Betts. The cover lists both as playing Lead Guitar, and that's exactly correct. Stormy Monday completes the first side. It is the definitive version of this oft-recorded chestnut, building so very slowly until they just rip it open. And the entire side also benefits from Greg Allman being one heck of a fine blues singer, and an organist deeply in touch with his inner Booker T. Jones.

You Don't Love Me starts with a driving blues riff, but then suffers from a too long slow section, and just not enough good ideas to fill nineteen minutes, all of side two.

Side three's Hot Lanta was written by all band members, and it sounds like a great idea taken from a jam and turned into a killer, organ-led swinging rocker. The twin guitar attack is in full force, Betts and Allman operating at a telepathic level. Smoking fast screaming guitars abound. Bett's In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed starts as a beautiful blues ballad, and then breaks into a shuffle that cooks like crazy with more twin lead guitars.

And then there's Whipping Post, aka side four. The song is a classic blues rock guitar exposé. And Greg sings it brilliantly. But the slow middle section is... well, it's dull is what it is, and the ending is more bombast than crescendo. It's a great song, but so is the five minute version on their debut.

I have to say going back to the whole record again was not quite as special as I had imagined it would be. The long jams, Whipping Post at 22 minutes, and You Don't Love Me at 19 minutes, don't hold up as well as they did in my, apparently more patient, youth. The slower passages of both meander around more than a little too long.

But the other half is incendiary. Side one's brilliant versions of old blues songs, and side three's blazing originals.

And there's something else. The sound of the vinyl is amazing, warm and relaxed, yet stunningly detailed. The two drummers provide a propulsive forward force, and the rhythm and timing of the presentation are special. The bass is big, but it is also wonderfully tuneful and articulate. It is a recording that can help you dissect the sound of system components, or audition new products. It sounds good on almost anything, but it can impress on a good stereo.

I'll just pull out an old favorite and rattle off a quick one.

1 comment:

  1. Love this review bro. You're really good at this. You should be writing for Rolling Stone or something. I used to think I was a pretty good writer back in the day but you're better. Keep up the good work.