The Allman Brothers took the stage at The Fillmore East on March 12-13, 1971. They did not realize it at the time but they were creating one of the best live albums in rock history. Rolling Stone Magazine would rank it as the 49th best album of all time and during 2004, the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry.
Tom Dowd returned as producer for the second album in a row. He is now recognized as one of the most accomplished producers in music history and he worked his magic with this release. He reduced the running time of some of the songs, plus he assembled certain tracks from two different performances.
The original vinyl release was a two-record set, yet only contained seven songs. Two of the tracks cover an entire side each, which created a far different type of album than the group’s two studio releases had. They traveled in a musical direction that few bands have traveled before or since. The length of the songs gave the band room to stretch out and improvise, with a result that proved to be consistently excellent, some of the best performances you will ever hear.
The highlight of an album filled with good performances is “Whipping Post.” It clocks in at just over 23 minutes as both Dickey Betts and Duane Allman take creative solos, and it combines their guitars as few duos have been able to do. Gregg Allman’s voice is perfectly suited for this rock/blues classic and drummers Jai Johnny Johnson and Butch Trucks lay down a thunderous foundation. What is truly amazing is the energy that is present throughout the entire song.
The second highlight is an extended version of the Dickey Betts tune, “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” It is a song I have returned to many times over the last 40 years and it remains fresh, interesting, and entertaining. It is a combination of jazz. rock, and blues as Gregg Allman’s organ provides a foundation for Betts and Duane’s guitar excursions.
The album has one strong track after another. Willie Cobb’s “You Don’t Love Me,” at just less than 20 minutes is another guitarist’s delight. The band also does justice to the old blues classic, “Stormy Monday.”
“Hot ‘Lanta” is a complete group effort and demonstrates what a tight band they were at the time. “Statesboro Blues” is the shortest track at just over four minutes and shows that they can also operate inside a structured song.
The album has been released in an extended form a number of times. If you don’t want the original release, track down a copy that has the 33-minute “Mountain Jam.” It is another Duane Allman extravaganza.
At Fillmore East is an album that has withstood the test of time well. Released during July of 1971, it remains Duane Allman’s defining moment. The only negative was that he would be dead a little over three months after its release. It remains an essential rock experience.