Hirsute Southerner’s make their mark on New York
The death of guitarist Duane Allman was one of blues-rock’s greatest losses, whose untimely passing cast a serious pall over The Allman Brothers Band. It was an event from which they never seemed to truly recover. Live from A&R Studios, New York, 26th August 1971 was recorded just eight weeks before the tragic road accident that would end his life, and therefore finds the group at their most joyous, confident, playful best.
Bootlegs of this show have been doing the rounds for quite some time, so to see these sessions finally released officially is definitely cause for quiet celebration.
Anyone who owns the Allman’s first two studio albums, plus the superb At Fillmore East, will already be familiar with the track listing, which represents a fairly typical stage show for the time. “Statesboro Blues” and “Trouble No More,” which open the set, reveal a band brimming with conviction and firing on all six cylinders thanks to a heavy touring schedule.
The telepathic chemistry between Duane and Dicky Betts is apparent on an unrelenting “One Way Out,” and Betts’ own mini-magnum-opus “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” Greg Allman’s vocals are as soulful as anything this side of Leon Russell, despite his somewhat tender age.
After a spirited “Stormy Monday,” the band blitz their way through a remarkable “You Don’t Love Me/Soul Serenade,” highlighted by an impressive lengthy guitar solo by Duane, who makes his instrument almost speak in tongues, before blowing out the windows during a sizzling “Hot ‘lanta,” to close out the session.
For this album, the original tapes were mastered, and while not exactly perfect, considering their age, the quality has held up remarkably well. What is surprising is that the tapes have survived at all, so in spite of some audio flaws, one shouldn’t complain, as this isn’t exactly Leadbelly we’re listening to.
At the time of this recording, the Allman Brothers Band were one of the finest exemplars of Southern progressive-rock, and at the pinnacle of their game. Along with Wet Willie and The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allmans brought a fire and passion few rock groups from the North could match. But not only that, they also helped to alter people’s perceptions when it came to those who lived below the Dixie Line, in that not all Southerner’s were a bunch of racist rednecks and backwoods cotton farmers.
Along with At Fillmore East, Live from A&R Studios, New York, 26th August 1971 is an essential, durable document for any fan, packed with some near combustible moments by a band that played as if every gig was their last.