One of my favorite live albums, since the time I first heard it in the late 1970s, is At Fillmore East by the Allman Brothers Band. Recorded over two nights in March 1971 at the legendary Fillmore East in New York, this concert highlights the Allman Brothers’ ability to stretch out and jam, and doing so with power, grace and beauty.
Listening to Duane Allman’s guitar work on the album still inspires awe all these decades later. His fingers fluidly worked the guitar strings like a lizard darting up and down the walls and ceiling of a room. His slide guitar playing was also a wondrous thing. No matter what he did with his guitar, Duane was able to dazzle audiences. Sadly, his life was tragically cut short in a motorcycle accident only a few months after those legendary Fillmore concerts in October 1971. After Duane’s death, the band veered more towards country-tinged numbers on albums like Brothers and Sisters, many of the songs written by guitarist Dickey Betts. But as heard on At Fillmore East, the vast majority of their output in the earlier part of the decade was definitely birthed in the blues. These songs, however, weren’t your standard 4/4 “My Baby Left Me” boring blues ditties, but pieces of music that grew wings and soared, all thanks to Duane’s amazing improvisational guitar skills.
In 2003, a deluxe version of At Fillmore East was released, sporting the obligatory extra tracks and a booklet packed with essays and photos. I debated getting it for the longest time. I had the original double-disc set, so why fork out more money for basically the same thing, albeit one with some extra tracks. Well, I finally succumbed. After all, those extra tracks meant over 40 minutes more music, so why not? The extras added to this edition of At Fillmore East include “Mountain Jam” (the same 33-minute version also appears on their Eat a Peach album), “Midnight Rider” (a different version was also a solo hit for Gregg Allman), and “Drunken Hearted Boy,” a bluesy tune featuring Elvin Bishop (a pretty hot guitar player in his own right) on lead vocals.
Earlier this year, Gregg Allman released Low Country Blues, his first solo album in 14 years. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the album includes original material and covers of blues songs by artists such as Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, B.B. King. Bobby Bland, and Sleepy John Estes. I haven’t heard the album yet, but the reviews I’ve read are mostly quite positive. It’s now available in Bangkok shops, so I’m thinking about picking it up soon.