When you think of the Allman Brothers, you immediately think of their live performances. I love their studio stuff, but much like the Grateful Dead, Cream, Phish, or any other ďjam band," a live show is just a completely different environment. They formed in 1969, combining the improvisation and jamming of the Grateful Dead with southern blues, soul, jazz, and country. In 1969, they released their s/t debut, and in 1970, released a follow up album, Idlewild South. Both albums received great reviews, and many critics viewed the Allman Brothers as the American answer to British blues bands like Cream. Despite the critical success of these albums, they didnít help the Allman Brothers become popular. It would take their third album, Live At the Fillmore East to do that.
The album was recorded when the Allman Brothers were undeniably at their peak. Duane and Berry had not yet died, and two years of constant touring had made them tighter than ever. They knew each others styles and tendencies so well that they were just able to play off each other perfectly. It all starts with Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe. Oakley was the bassist, while Trucks and Jaimoe handled the drums, with Jaimoe also contributing more unusual percussion such as bongos. The three of them had perfect chemistry. Oakley was able to play complex and interesting basslines, yet keep perfect time with Trucks and Jaimoe. Trucks and Jaimoe were able to successfully play off of each other and contributed interesting fills while keeping a steady rhythm. On top of that, you have Gregg Allman contributing his soulful vocals and organ playing. He was a more than capable organ player, but for the most part would play soulful funky rhythm riffs and let Duane and Dickey shine. But heíll take the occasional solo as evidenced on here, and itís great when he does. And then finally, you have what the Allmans were best known for: guitars. Duane and Dickey are incredible throughout the show. Both are absolutely on fire and they each play mindblowing solos. Duane usually gets all the credit, but in reality, both were amazing and neither was able to outshine the other. They just allow each other plenty of space to trade off insane solos. Duaneís slide skill combined with Dickeyís mastery of the pentatonic leads to some amazing guitar fireworks. Now a track by track review:
- The Allmans get announced, then Gregg pounds on his keys once and Duane plays the slide intro. Duaneís intro slide work is nothing complex compared to some of his other work, but it just sets the tone of the album so well. It gets the blues/boogie groove going that never lets up and itís just a perfect way to start off the album. Gregg starts singing loud and clear in his soulful voice. Actually, with all the instrumental prowess the Allmanís show off on this album, Greggís voice remains upfront and a centerpiece, and his soulful singing is a definite highlight of the show. Duane plays the first solo which starts off as nothing special for his standards, but heats up by the end. Dickey then takes a solo, which is better than Duaneís imo. Itís a great contrast to Duaneís; youíve got Duaneís upfront bluesy slide solo, and then Dickeyís which is much more melodic and laid back but it fits the song more perfectly than words can describe. Actually, itís probably one of my favorite Dickey solos ever. While the guitars are soloing, the rhythm section, including Greggís organ keeps a tight blues boogie groove for Duane and Dickey to improvise over, and everything just works perfectly. Itís a perfect way to open the album because it shows off everything the band does so well, yet at 4:20, isnít long enough to scare anyone away. 5/5
Done Somebody Wrong
- This song starts off exactly like Statesboro Blues, with Gregg and the rhythm section setting the groove while Duane plays the main riff over it except the riff is different and the tempo is a little slower than Statesboro Blues. Greggís singing here is as soulful and bluesy as ever, with Duane playing slide fills. After the first verse, thereís a really good harmonica solo though Iím not sure who plays it. Dickey follows with a fantastic solo. Then another verse, and Duane goes nuts. Gregg sings a final verse and then the song ends. 4.5/5
- After two compact blues rockers, we get a slow, stretched out blues, and also Gregg gets his first real chance to show off on organ with that nice riff and fills. Duane and Dickey gives off a pretty nice solos, but itís overshadowed by Greggís organ solo which is just fantastic. Overall, itís a good song, but a little too slow for me. 4/5
You Donít Love Me
- The first real jam of the night at 19 minutes, I guess it can be a chore to sit through if youíre new to the Allmanís. But I love it. As he introduces the song, Gregg says, ďyou can put your hands together for this one" and you certainly can, it has a great groove as Dickey and Gregg double up on the riff. Duane delivers the first solo and it is truly an insane minute of guitar showmanship. Then itís Dickeyís turn and Gregg plays an organ solo after that, then a harmonica solo. To some this may seem extremely boring. Just guys trading off solos over and over again? Thatís it? And this is supposed to be one of the best live albums of all time. But all the solos are really special. They never get repetitive or boring, and time just passes when you listen to this. It seems like the songs over before you know it despite the fact that itís 19 minutes long. You get so into the music, that you donít notice the time passing. It never gets boring. Anyways, after the harmonica solo (which is great by the way, not that youíd expect anything else), Gregg sings another verse and then the best part of the song comes. The band just stops playing and gives Duane 2 minutes to just do whatever he wants. After that, Dickey takes a very lengthy and brilliant solo with Butch Trucks and Jaimoe adding some brilliant drumming behind him. Finally they go back into the main riff after that long jam, but they donít stay in it for long and Duane takes another great but short solo then is joined by Betts for a dual solo. Duane closes out the song with a final solo. All in all, this song is just an incredible long jam and even my extremely long review of it canít explain it. You just have to hear it. In a way, itís kind of like a Miles Davis or John Coltrane jazz song, everyone is given plenty of space to solo, and all the solos are loosely tied together to the main theme of the song. In fact, the Allmanís were heavily influenced by jazz, and a lot of their improvising style was taken from Miles and John. 5/5
- This is the first original on the album and has a very jazzy feel. Itís also an instrumental. For some reason, it seems like it never gets the praise it deserves. Itís not my favorite but it has one of Duaneís finest and most ferocious solos, and it has a nice but way too short duel drum solo from Butch and Jaimoe. This would be a really great song if it was just another couple minutes longer. 3.5/5
In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
- This song is also very jazz influenced and probably the most jazzy song theyíve ever done. Itís an instrumental written by Dickey Betts. Itís got a slow, instantly recognizable guitar riff. Eventually, the tempo picks up as Dickey delivers a long solo that is just incredible and probably his best of the night. After that, the band gives Gregg room to take his first really extended organ solo of the night. He had a couple short ones before, but this is his first chance to really explore, and he delivers a great solo. Then itís Duaneís turn to take off. And take off he does. Itís just incredible. 5/5
- Words canít really describe this song. Iíd advise just listening to it. But Iíll say that it is the definitive Allman Brothers song and possibly their greatest. It starts with a brilliant bassline from Berry with guitar doubling up on the riff and some great duel drumming by Butch and Jaimoe. Then Gregg starts with the vocals which are his strongest of the night. After the first solo, Duane has his first of many great solos and Dickey takes his first after the 2nd verse. Both solos are just mindblowing. Seriously, Iím not going to get deep into this song, just because itís a 21 minute song and I donít feel like doing a solo breakdown at midnight. But throughout the song, Duane and Dickey trade off amazing solos. There are just too many moments to count where my mouth is just left wide open in amazement. 5/5
Overall, this album is just classic and in my opinion is the 2nd greatest live album of all time (after Live at Leeds by The Who). There are no real weak spots on the album. Itís a live album, but from the quality, you wouldnít know it. All the instruments come through amazingly clear, and the crowd seems like they are just in awe of the playing. During the songs, theyíre pretty much completely silent (probably just blown away) and only applaud at the end. And the playingÖ itís just phenomenal. Brilliant solo after brilliant solo. But it manages to never get boring or repetitive at all. With each solo, they are pushing the boundaries of music further and further and reaching heights that had never been reached before. Itís just an amazing experience to hear. Iíve listened to this album countless times, and I am blown away every single time. This undoubtedly deserves a 5.