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Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas

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The Allman Brothers had disbanded following the release of 1975’s Win, Lose Or Draw. The band’s label, Capricorn, was experiencing financial problems. Capricorn also had a number of live recordings in the vault. The inevitable result of this situation was Capricorn issuing a live album to cash in on the band’s popularity. It all ended better than might have been expected at the time, as Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas may not have been the equal of their classic At Fillmore East, but was an excellent album in its own right.

The album remains an excellent document of the band’s second incarnation. Duane Allman and Berry Oakley were both dead and had been replaced by bassist Lamar Williams and pianist Chuck Leavell. Their addition had changed the sound of the band as now Richard Betts was the sole guitarist and Leavell and Gregg Allman were dual keyboardists.

The album’s tracks were taken from five concerts recorded between December 31, 1972-October 24, 1975. The first five tracks, which covered the first two sides of the original two record vinyl release, were all recorded September 26, 1973 at Winterland, in San Francisco. As such they have a nice flow to them. The last six tracks have a more disjoined feel due to their different origens.

The gem of the first set was a 17 minute version of “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” It’s always interesting to compare this performance with the one on At Fillmore East. While I miss Duane Allman, this version has a lot to recommend it. It is more laid back with a nice jazzy feel. Richard Betts carries on as the one guitarist but it is the interaction between Leavell, Gregg, and Williams that propels the song along.

Side one contains a nice bluesy vocal by Gregg Allman on “Wasted Words,” and the bands rocks through “Southbound.” The interesting track is a seven minute performance of “Ramblin’ Man.” It was not a usual part of their live set as its tight structure was not suited for improvisation. Here, however, they extend the song a bit and it comes across well.

The second half of the release is more diverse but contains several very solid tracks. “Jessica” may not have Les Dudek’s second guitar that graced the original recording, but Chuck Leavell’s piano more than makes up for it, in what may be his finest performance as an Allman Brother. “It’s Not My Cross To Bear” is an example of the double keyboards of Leavell and Allman working well together. “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” is a nice rock/blues fusion piece.

Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas may always come out second best when compared to At Fillmore East, but it contains a lot of good music from an unappreciated period in the life of The Allman Brothers. It remains an album that should be approached on its own merits.

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