The Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East: The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings
The Allman Brothers Band knew it was recording its third album.Duane Allman tells the audience of the Fillmore East several times throughout that the group is taping the two-night, four-show residency at the fabled New York City theatre- a weekend that would result in At Fillmore East, and perhaps the most-critically acclaimed live album in rock music history.The resulting seven songs chosen for that double-album set were revolutionary, incendiary, and the best possible introduction to the twin guitar excellence of Allman and Dickey Betts, brother Gregg’s voice already weary beyond his years, and elevating, telepathic improvisation powered by dual drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, as well the galloping bass of Berry Oakley.
The biggest task for the album’s producer, the late Tom Dowd, following those magical nights in March of 1971 was not what he could use, but what he had to leave out.Some of what didn’t make the cut would eventually surface, first on the follow-up Eat a Peach, bittersweet in that its inclusion of the half-hour-long “Mountain Jam,” “Trouble No More,” and a performance of “One Way Out” drawn from the venue’s final night in June of 1971 were in part to pay tribute on that double-album to Duane who had passed following a tragic motorcycle accident only months after At Fillmore East was released and had raised significantly the band’s national profile.Yet, what of the rest of that weekend captured on tape?
Finally, 43 years later, The Allman Brothers Band has released every note from that four-pack of shows plus the entire June 27th concert, previously available only as a bonus disc on the Eat a Peach deluxe edition, in a six-CD set The1971 Fillmore East Recordings.Beginning with the warm-up whine of Duane’s slide prior to “Statesboro Blues,” the first of five renderings in the collection, to the last bit of applause fading out after “You Don’t Love Me,” the historical weight and impact of what was played by these six young men from Macon, Georgia can be experienced, certifiable proof of performances at once groundbreaking and yet somehow almost second-nature for an ensemble that to date had performed hundreds of shows, rolling up thousands of miles on the road in just two years since forming in 1969.To listen to special guests like Rudolph ‘Juicy” Carter on saxophone and Bobby Caldwell on percussion stretch the boundaries of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” their appearances foreshadowing the modern-day band’s percussionist Marc Quinones and the annual sit-ins at the Beacon, to notice the subtle shifts from version to version of songs populating relatively the same five setlists, the confidence and spirit pouring out relentlessly, to hear the band take what felt right in an earlier rendition and expand on it just hours later, carrying it through to the next performance and then the next,without even the slightest hint of repetition, this is what is so extraordinary about this box set.This is why it is a must for every fan of music of any kind, from those that own the original album and every subsequent re-issue of it since to those that have never heard of The Allman Brothers Band.Everything that made this group important at the time and for over five decades since is right here.
Overseen by executive producer Bill Levenson, who helmed the Dreams box and several other reissues of Brothers works, the aesthetics of the package are appropriately complete and insightful, including an essay by band historian John Lynskey.Sonically, the mixes of the previously released At Fillmore East material have been revamped, and as well as the new, were done by Kevin Reeves and Levenson, and approach if not meet Dowd’s highest standard.In fact, presented in sequence, it would be hard to distinguish between the two, certainly there are not enough differences to detract.
Even after all six discs have been digested, it stills feels, however, like Dowd got it right.Those original seven classics and subsequent Peach cuts, imitated a million times over by every aspiring guitarist, the ones that wore out countless turntables and tape decks, continue to shine a little bit brighter than the others.Regardless, what a gift it is to be able to have it all, to agree or disagree with his choices, or to simply sit back, turn it up loud, and enjoy.