The Allman Brothers Band - The Archive Series

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The Allman Brothers Band - The Archive Series

Postby blueswriter » Sat Jun 28, 2008 6:07 pm

With new reviews going up from the desk of yours truly (and they will be numerous), there's a series of five archival Allman Brothers Band recordings that will be included. Here's the first installment...

The Allman Brothers Band
Boston Common 8-17-71
Allman Brothers Band Recording Co. (2007) 21229

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7 tracks, 79 minutes. Highly recommended. Considering that The Allman Brothers Band has been around for what is just shy of a full four decades, it should be no surprise that their history is laced with miraculous highs and devastating lows. Right around the time their now historic At Fillmore East double album went platinum in 1971, guitarist Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash as the band worked on their follow-up recording, Eat A Peach. They soldiered on finishing that project, went back on the road as a five-piece outfit and started work on their next long-player. In the middle of the sessions for Brothers And Sisters, bassist Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident in November of 1972 that was eerily similar to the one that took Duane's life a year and thirteen days earlier. Since those early years, the band has gone through the ringer with drug busts, tabloid romances, break-ups, reunions and lengthy label disputes over their catalog. Why this brief history overview is important is relatively simple; many listeners and longtime fans regard the original six-man line-up of The Allman Brothers Band as the one to measure everything else by.

Just a few short years ago the band began releasing 'live' archive recordings dating as far back as 1970, which is where we come in. Since there are now five in the catalog, it seems appropriate to look at the most recent release in the series and work backwards. As the title indicates, this gem dates back to the days when the band was at the height of their collective powers and creativity. Recorded just a few shorts months after their triumph at New York's Fillmore East and shortly before Brother Duane's death, this concert from Boston Common in August of 1971 is a rough and raw blues set. After a brief tune-up the boys launch into Statesboro Blues, setting the tone for what follows; it's these guys at their best. Duane's signature slide efforts open the day's event and ride roughshod over a smoking shuffle groove while Gregg's whiskey-soaked voice belts out a narrative. McKinley Morganfield's Trouble No More chugs along with Berry Oakley's thundering bass underneath, then the boys hit their stride for a blistering Don't Keep Me Wondering. Boston has always been a special place for the Allmans, and that attachment shows with Berry recalling some of the band's previous high points when they played at the old Boston Tea Party and Cambridge Commons. It's also nice hearing him mention one of their favorite outfits back then, Boston's own J. Geils Band.

The opening notes of You Don't Love Me barely hint at the musical peaks the ABB could reach in their prime, but listening to this twenty-five minute opus displays not only their innate communication, it's also a stunning reminder of the virtuosity they possessed as youngbloods. The dual guitars of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts speak volumes, Oakley's bass rumbles over, under and around drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, and Gregg Allman's voice bristles with a swaggering intensity. After a potent and sexually-charged Hoochie Coochie Man with Berry tackling the vocals with energy to spare, and a tight-and-tempered In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, Oakley's bass fires off the threatening introduction to Whipping Post. Gregg's angry and world-weary voice belies the young man he was at the time. The well-oiled band ignites and sparkles while laying a foundation of pure asbestos. And the fiery conclusion eighteen minutes later ends what must have been a remarkable day for anyone in attendance.

The music of The Allman Brothers Band has never been about grandstanding or histrionics. It's always been about displaying the full range of human emotions on a musical level. Is it pretty? Sometimes it's downright beautiful. Is it ugly and violent? At times it has all the elements of a brutal street fight. It's hot and it's soaked with sweat. It's about the depths of despair when a human being has been stepped on and kicked around like a battered tin can. It's about being on top of a mountain knowing nothing can touch you. It's heart and soul and voice all coming together and it makes us realize that what we feel is shared by others. It's knowing that as sore as life leaves you one day, the next day could easily find you on top of the world. It's blues.

The Allman Brothers Band - Boston Common

© 2008 by Craig Ruskey
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