Mar 12, 2011
For my money, the greatest live album ever recorded is the Allman Brothers Band's "At Fillmore East". Released in the summer of 1971, it has the band at their improvsational greatest, and stands as what one writer called their "spooky pinnacle" as a live act. The album was recorded during two shows at Bill Graham's iconic venue in New York City on March 12 and 13th, 1971. Now, forty years later, the music sounds as fresh and exciting as ever, and still may be the finest hybrid of rock and jazz ever recorded. Tragically, before the year was out, lead guitarist Duane Allman would be dead in a motorcycle accident, ending any chance of greater group triumphs.
I've blogged before on my view that the band and their sound - particularly before the untimely deaths of Allman and bassist Berry Oakley - owes more to jazz bands than the rock bands of their time. They loved to improvise, and their sense of timing, structure and work ethic are closer to bands led by Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Rahsaan Roland Kirk than those fronted by their peers of the day. The dual lead guitars of Dicky Betts and Allman were far closer to a pair of horn players than the standard lead/rhythm of rock and roll. They had an unparalleled rhythm section, led then and now by Jaimoe and Butch Trucks on a variety of percussion.
For a worthy essay on these topics, check out "The Serendipity of Two Musical Heroes: Duane Allman and John Coltrane" by David Gardiner, and an excerpt from Guitar Player magazine that quotes Duane on Trane and Miles. To here the man himself at his Coltrane inspired best, listen to "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and while you do, read this insightful Wikipedia entry on the song, where Duane's solos are compared with Coltrane's "sheets of sound" and Miles' modal recordings on Kind of Blue.