I’ve had the argument many times that the original version of the Allman Brothers Band was the best blues-rock band in the history of rock. Many insist it’s Led Zeppelin. Others have their favorites. But I go with this batch of fellas, captured live here when it was really coming together for them.
This double disc was recorded over two days in Atlanta in 1970. The venue was only 14 miles from the Allmans “Big House” in Macon, Georgia. So they feel at home.
Day one features some fine excursions, including a stompin’ version of “Hoochie Coochie Man” with Berry Oakley on vocals. It’s nasty. No other way to describe it. There’s a very nice version of the underrated “Dreams” that clocks in at almost 10 minutes and features solos by Duane and Dickey, and Gregg on vocal and organ. Even though Duane has been dead for more than 30 years, it would be hard to find a rock guitarist who sounds this sweet, but still plays with such incredible power. It’s an easy thing to forget what a magnificent player he was. Easy, that is, until you dial up on a tune with him playing. Anyway, disc one has some great music on it, including a “Mountain Jam” that gets interrupted by the rain.
But it’s disc two that lets you hear the Allman Brothers at their finest. Recorded two days after the first, on this disc they seem more comfortable, and they expand ideas throughout the set. Some of the songs are repeated from the first set, but, as you’d expect from a band that jams this much, things get changed around.
This version of “Statesboro Blues” is guaranteed to knock your socks off and make your rear end move. To really catch what this band is all about at their best, check out July 5th’s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” It’s a journey that has a lot of fun stops, and highlights each player’s strengths. It’s a shame some of today’s so-called jam bands can’t capture this feeling. No meandering. Everything, even when it appears to be found by chance, has a purpose.
Disc two also features a very cool version of “Stormy Monday,” a classic take on “Whipping Post,” and a 28-minute “Mountain Jam” with guest Johnny Winter.
Some of this has been bootlegged before, but the sound here is terrific. Kirk West’s liner notes are informative and fun, and there are some great photos in the small booklet.
If you’re a fan of this band, you gotta have this.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.