Jetlagged and bleary after a 10-hour transatlantic flight from Paris the day before (itself a spur of the moment thing after bad weather in Europe freaked him out) – Producer Tom Dowd phoned the offices of Atlantic Records in New York the following afternoon to see what was occurring. A panicked secretary reputedly advised him in no uncertain terms that he'd better wake up pronto (or partake of some Peruvian dancing dust) because he was urgently required for a recording gig in less than 24-hours. The Allman Brothers would be headlining at Bill Graham's Fillmore East – an old vaudevillian New York theatre house on 2nd Avenue where they'd played four times before but always as a support act to the likes of Blood, Sweat & Tears. Unfazed – the revered Producer who'd been shaping Atlantic's distinctive Soul and Rock sounds for over 20 years - witnessed the Southern Rockers take the stage on the opening Thursday night with a less than well rehearsed brass section. Dowd was duly appalled.
Legend has it that he bawled out the band backstage – calling it sloppy and unprofessional – roaring at them – demanding they drop the peripheral crap and get back to boogie basics – a set made up of new material and Blues standards from Elmore James, Willie Cobbs, T-Bone Walker and Blind Willie McTell. Now most hairy-assed slide-guitar Southern diplomats would have broken a bottle of Jack Daniels over his nancy New Yorker's head and used words not necessarily in the Webster Dictionary as they pointed his grizzled rump towards the stage door. But this was TOM DOWD and they knew of his incredible track record and professional 'ear'. The Allmans listened – respected – and acted. And across the remaining three shows over two nights (8:00 pm and 11:30 pm on 12 and 13 March) – Dowd caught lightning in a bottle – one of the most famous and revered live doubles ever put to tape. The fourth show had been interrupted by a bomb scare but they played into the early hours regardless – huge 30-minute jams – a tight rhythm section – Duane's inspired lead – a band ready to take on the world.
Dowd got 20 reels of tape – mostly favouring the fourth show where (perhaps because of the scares) he felt the band was most fluid - 'cooking' even. Seven tracks made the final July 1971 2LP set with "You Don't Love Me" and "Whipping Post" taking up residency as all of Side 2 and 4 respectively. "Trouble No More" and the humungous 33-minute "Mountain Jam" were set aside for use on the "Eat A Peach" double released February 1972 - as was "One Way Out" taped 27 June 1971 at further Fillmore East gigs. "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" turned up on the appeared-too-fast "Duane Allman Anthology" twofer in November 1972 - released after his passing from a motorcycle accident October 1971 during the Peach Sessions aged only 24. Another straggler from the 27 June 1971 shows "Midnight Rider" eventually showed on "Duane Allman Anthology, Volume 2" in August 1974. Last but by no means least – with dawn's light already broken - "Drunken Hearted Boy" was an encore that saw Elvin Bishop join the band on stage at six a.m. on the 13th of March 1971 – itself finally appearing in the 4CD/6LP Retrospective Box Set "Dreams" in July 1989. It’s also safe to say that "At Fillmore East" put the Capricorn Records label and Southern Rock in general on the world map – paving the way for The Marshall Tucker Band, Elvin Bishop, The Outlaws, Z.Z. Top and of course Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Which brings us to this 23 September 2003 Deluxe Edition reissue that draws all of those disparate sources together in one ace remastered bundle – here are the six-in-the-morning details...
UK released 23 September 2003 (24 September 2004 in the USA) – "The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East: Deluxe Edition" by THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND on Universal/Mercury/Chronicles 0044007735329 (Barcode 044007735329) is a 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Remaster that plays outs as follows (the USA issue is B0000401-02 - Barcode 044007735329):
Disc 1 (65:12 minutes): 1. Statesboro Blues [4:17 minutes] 2. Trouble No More [3:43 minutes] 3. Don't Keep Me Wonderin' [3:27 minutes] 4. Done Somebody Wrong [4:33 minutes] 5. Stormy Monday [8:48 minutes] 6. One Way Out [4:56 minutes] 7. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed [13:04 minutes] 8. You Don't Love Me [19:16 minutes] 9. Midnight Rider [2:55 minutes]
Disc 2 (68:51 minutes): 1. Hot 'Lanta [5:20 minutes] 2. Whipping Post [22:53 minutes] 3. Mountain Jam [33:39 minutes] 4. Drunken Hearted Boy [6:57 minutes]
Tracks 1, 4, 5, 8 on Disc 1 and Tracks 1 and 2 on Disc 2 make up the original July 1971 2LP set as follows: Side 1: 1. Statesboro Blues [Blind Willie McTell cover] 2. Done Somebody Wrong [Elmore James cover] 3. Stormy Monday [T-Bone Walker cover] Side 2: 1. You Don't Love Me [Willie Cobbs cover] Side 3: 1. Hot 'Lanta [Allman Brothers song] 2. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed [Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers song] Side 4: 1. Whipping Post [Gregg Allman song] "The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East" was released July 1971 in the USA on Capricorn Records SD-2 860 and Capricorn 2659 005 in the UK. Produced by TOM DOWD - it peaked at No. 13 in the US LP charts (didn't chart UK).
Tracks 2 and 6 on Disc 1 originally appeared February 1972 on the US 2LP set "Eat A Peach" on Capricorn Records 2CP-0102 Track 3 on Disc 1 originally appeared November 1972 on the US 2LP set "Duane Allman Anthology" on Capricorn Records 2CP-0108 Track 9 on Disc 1 originally appeared August 1974 on the US 2LP set "Duane Allman Anthology, Volume 2" on Capricorn Records CPN-2-0139 Track 4 on Disc 2 originally appeared July 1989 on the 4CD/6LP/4MC Box Set "Dreams" on Polydor 422 839 417-2
The Band: DUANE ALLMAN – Lead and Slide Guitars GREGG ALLMAN – Organ, Piano and Vocals DICKEY BETTS – Lead Guitar BERRY OAKLEY – Bass JAIMOE – Drums, Congas and Timbales BUTCH TRUCKS – Drums and Tympani
Guests: Thom Doucette – Harmonica on "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'", "Done Somebody Wrong", "Stormy Monday" and "You Don't Love Me" Elvin Bishop - Guitar and Vocals on "Drunken Hearted Boy" Steve Miller - Piano on "Drunken Hearted Boy" Bobby Caldwell - Percussion on "Drunken Hearted Boy"
The outer plastic 'Deluxe Edition' slipcase lends these reissues a real touch of substance - while the 28-page features classy black and white photos of the boys making history and individual plates of each band member. The original album's inner gatefold photos of the band live now take up either side of the opened digipak. A nice touch is an alternate outtake of the famous 'five roadies' photo on the back cover of the original double (still on the back of the digipak) - the booklet's last page uses a moments-earlier outtake photo where there's suddenly six of them (the iconic shot was actually done at the Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia and not as people presumed against the walls of The Fillmore East in New York). DAVE THOMPSON gives an entertaining and enlightening set of liner notes - filling in the factual stuff while at the same time wearing his affection for the album firmly on his sleeve. He also quite rightly points out that the release practically kick-started the ‘Live Double-Album’ as a vinyl phenomenon that still exists to this day and dominated the whole of the Seventies.
But the big news is a new SUHA GUR Remaster. As you can see from the track line-up above – this 2CD DE lines up the tracks as they were played – giving you a feel for progression. When he says ‘we got an Elmore James number for you’ at the beginning of "Done Somebody Wrong" or the intro to "Whipping Post" where someone from the audience shouts for it – you can feel the intensity of the band live in your living room. There is also that discernable feeling that these are recordings unleashed – much like the band as they rip through solo and solo...
As that slide guitar comes screaming in on "Statesboro Blues" – they already sound like your favourite bar band – only writ larger. Introducing the new Elmore James cut "Done Somebody Wrong" (said with a Southern twang). The audience gets a real taste of the playing when they launch into a fabulous version of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday" - those solos and that organ support - all of it so sweet. The put-your-hands-together Willie Cobbs winner "You Don't Love Me" lifts the crowd into boogie heaven. To this day when I hear a bar-band lay into its great chords to get a crowd neck-jerking - I think of what it must have been like for Allmans fans at that show – all 19-minutes of it.
"Hot 'Lanta" feels almost early Little Feat in places or even Santana - the band swinging and swaying - the whole thing just so beautifully together. The Dickie Betts instrumental "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" changes the tempo into a sexy almost Latin sway - while at the same time allowing the two lead guitars to indulge. You get well-rehearsed virtuoso playing - in fact this is one of my faves on the double precisely because it shows the Allmans could 'groove' with the best of them (I'd swear Carlos would approve). The 5:22 minutes of "Whipping Post" from their November 1969 self-titled debut album gets cranked up to eleven on the 23-minute live version in 1971. And again there's that Santana thing going on as the band slow it down half way through - all that sweet Bass and crashing cymbals.
Bonuses - the 1955 Muddy Waters Chess classic "Trouble No More" gives the boys another chance to shine on the Boogie front and frankly you can't help think it should have been on the original double album - but what would you drop (it also sports fabulous remastered sound and wonderful period feel for the material). Another Elmore James stomper "One Way Out" only adds to that foot-tapping bank balance. The 33 and a half-minute bruiser that is "Mountain Jam" takes its central theme from a 1967 Donovan single "There Is A Mountain" and is surely one of the prizes here. And there’s Steve Miller and Elvin Bishop helping out on the raucous finisher "Drunken Hearted Boy" – how cool.
When I think about the landslide of Southern Rock that followed after this landmark live set - I look at my battered vinyl copy (its spine split) and smile. I'm fairly certain this truly excellent 2CD DE version of "At Fillmore East" will elicit the same response once it's in your latest rig...
Wanting a heavy-ish rocky, bluesy sort of album, much preferably one with a real band sound of unity I checked out from scratch on Amazon, via reviews and the MP3 sample feature.
I'd heard of the legendary The Allman Brothers Band, probably thumbing through those wonderful album cover artwork books and such, so my ears were pricked when almost unanimously this 'At Fillmore East' attained a lofty five stars, from 25 reviewers.
So, having bought it, yes, it has a real rawness, but a refined one at that and some great improvisational tunes that develop with instruments that clearly lead from each other, to form a solid and up-tempo sound that has jazzy keyboards, weaving bass and guitars that crash and slide into each other, playing off from each other. Inventive, pulsating drums ripple along adding percussive interest along the way.
As others have cited, the majestic 13 minute In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, which starts off in a stately and purposeful way, soon gets jazzed up and soon is zipping along, with guitars, keys and bass all intersecting and bobbing about. It gets the foot tapping and body swaying slowly and whilst playing is absolutely wonderful.
At Fillmore East, as others have said, is a superbly recorded album, with each instrument easily picked out in its tonal range and with clarity and space around each one. The percussion is clean and bright, with cymbal work clear, without being 'splashy'. The bassline is always bobbing about and like any good live music, actually 'live' you can swap any of each of the instruments to be your lead instrument to follow, then switch it and then return back to the full sound.
The enclosed scrap of paper that makes up the insert is a bit sorry, with a just a few colour photos and band member list. However, I do really like the high-contrast black & white cover photo itself, which perfectly conveys a sense of southern unity.
Having seen various bands live over the years I've been generally disappointed with live albums. Not so with this. Certain times in your life you wish you could have been there for legendary performances: Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie playing at the Massey Hall in 1953; John Coltrane playing My Favourite Things at Newport in 1963; a fly on the wall for the Kind of Blue sessions; Tim Buckley singing Venice Beach.
'Live at the Fillmore East' is right up there and for me is the greatest live rock album ever, nothing else comes near for me. Even on a stellar recording like this, 'In Memory of Elizabeth Reed' and 'Whipping Post' are astonishing. They were not just a rock/blues band, there are elements of Jazz and even Santana on parts of Elizabeth Reed. The musicians: Duane Allman is up there with the very best, but Dickie Betts is wonderful also and the interplay between the two is telepathic; Berry Oakley's bass playing is as good as it gets (you need the album because hearing him on Youtube drown his playing); Greg Allman has a wonderful blues voice; Butch Trucks and Jamoe perfectly compliment the overall sound.
The dreaded live album is a make or break situation for any band. Most bands can pull it off with reasonable success, others doctor their recordings in studio because they're simply not any good and then there are the few that excel at recording live, providing a better performance on stage than in studio.
The opening description sums up my feelings on At Fillmore East from The Allman Brothers Band perfectly. I own multiple live recordings from this band and even though they are hit or miss in terms of sound quality, one thing remains constant and that is the professionalism put into the bands performance. The best of which is hands down their third album and first official live release, At Fillmore East.
The albums track list is one hit after the other from the slide guitar beauty, Statesboro Blues to the Elmore James classic, Done Somebody Wrong and the two live set list staples, In memory of Elizabeth Reed and Whipping Post. Each song comes across quite powerful, considerably more energetic and so finely performed on this record that it deserves its timeless status that it has received over the years. The guitar trade off between Duane Allman and Dickie Betts is stuff of legend, the dual drumming from Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny is as equally impressive. both drummers do their part with such finesse and play alongside one another with impressive precision. Of course this is moulded together by Berry Oakley on bass and Gregg Allman's atmospheric organ, piano and whisky soaked vocals. It is a wonderful combination.
There have been numerous releases of this record over the years. The most notable are the deluxe edition and the six disc box-set. Both editions extend the performance considerably and are well worth hunting down for fans of the band. The sound quality is different for each release but I have yet to hear one that sounds terrible. At Fillmore East is a very well put together album with some top notch production and mixing, to make this album sound bad would be impressive.
Fans of the classic '70s live albums must have this in their collection. This is the band at their peak and to hear the extra kick in the bands sound live just perfects an already perfect sound. In my honest opinion, the only live album to rival this in terms of overall quality is Deep Purple's Made In Japan. Both records should be in your collection, with absolutely no questions asked.