The Allman Brothers Band

Autumn Bonanza for Fans of the Allman Brothers Band

19 October 2003The Republican “Playback” column

Rarities and reissues

The Allman Brothers Band: “Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival,” (Epic/Legacy). 4 (Four) stars; “At Fillmore East (Deluxe Edition),” (Mercury/UME) 5 (Five) stars; “Live at the Beacon Theatre” (Peach/Sanctuary – DVD) 3 (Three) 1/2 stars.

It’s an autumn bonanza for fans of the Allman Brothers Band. The venerable Southern rock icons are being spotlighted with several different releases, the most intriguing of which is a double-CD recording culled from their July 3 and July 5, 1970 performance at the Atlanta International Pop Festival. While a couple of cuts from this release appeared on a various artist triple-LP from 1971, the vast majority of the two-and-a-half-hour package had never previously seen the light of day commercially.

It’s a great show and one of the earliest known recordings with the group’s original lineup, complete with Duane Allman offering dazzling slide guitar work and Berry Oakley’s bass anchoring the bottom end. While not quite as tight as they would soon become, the musical interplay is still dazzling, and Gregg Allman’s vocals carry a youthful purity. Standouts abound, from “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” and “Every Hungry Woman,” to a beautiful take of “Dreams.”

The band had reached its musical peak by March 1971, when the ABB recorded what’s arguably the greatest live album in the history of rock, “At Fillmore East.” It has now been reissued as a double CD “deluxe” edition, featuring all the unforgettable elements of the original album, like “Whipping Post,” “Stormy Monday,” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Additionally, listeners will find other highlights, including the 33-minute “Mountain Jam,” (which first appeared on “Eat a Peach”) and versions of “One Way Out,” and “Midnight Rider,” which were recorded during the group’s subsequent appearance at the Fillmore on June 27, 1971.

While still a 5-star classic of an album, it offers only one additional song to “The Fillmore Concerts” which was released in 1992, and at the time was an expanded version of the original double LP.

All these years and a few lineup changes later, the Allman Brothers Band is still rocking hard, as can be seen on the new double-disc DVD recorded earlier this year during the group’s appearance at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

Guitarists Warren Haynes and low-key but brilliant Derek Trucks have helped turn this edition of the Allmans into one of the most vibrant in years, and they shine on a blend of older tracks, like “Statesboro Blues,” and “Come & Go Blues,” with more recent fare including “The High Cost of Low Living,” and “Desdemona.” The second DVD offers plenty of bonus material, including behind-the-scenes footage and a lengthy interview with the group that features some surprisingly revelatory comments by Gregg Allman about how he overcame his battles with substance abuse.

Rating scale: 1 (One) star (poor) to 5 (Five) stars (a classic)

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