The Allman Brothers Band
Manley Field House, Syracuse University, April 7th, 1972
Allman Brothers Band Recording Company
This latest archival release by the keepers of The Allman Brothers Band flame captures the iconic group doing what they did best during one of the unique, short-lived periods in their 45-year-long existence. Singer and keyboardist Gregg Allman, guitarist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, and drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks had hit the road just weeks following the sudden, October 1971 death of 24-year-old founding lead and slide guitar wunderkind, Duane Allman. By the time they arrived at New York’s Syracuse University on April 7th, 1972, their show was a hard charging affair devoid of sadness. Referred to by fans as the “Five Man Band,” The Allman Brothers Band played with anger perhaps (Oakley’s bass notes seem capable of cracking cement), and hunger for certain. But their singular flair endured, regardless that they were down a main ingredient.
Allman Brothers music was the blues, tough and sharp like barbed wire, deeply emotional, rocking with a fury, and flying off masterfully on jazz-inspired improvisation just as well. Indelible Allman Brothers imprints of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong,” and especially Sonny Boy Williamson’s “One Way Out” here, show how they invigorated the blues, akin to what New Wave artists did for pop music five years later. But jams such as “Hot ‘Lanta” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” display a fearlessness for delving into divine, driving phrases influenced by the compositions of John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
Dickey Betts deserves special mention. Left in an unenviable position, Betts filled the Duane Allman void with lead and slide guitar and an altogether aggressiveness that never detracts from his own deeply melodic character. The heights of his abilities color all 15 minutes each of the aforementioned “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” and Willie Cobbs’ “You Don’t Love Me.” Oakley introduces the latter, stating “Brother Gregg singin’ the blues; brother Dickey playin’ ‘em.” Indeed. Betts grinds the blues inside and out and proves why he is considered, with Allman, among the best of his generation. His brute-force note-bending stuns at the apex of the slightly Latin-flavored “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”
Gregg Allman enjoyed a memorable night, too. Whether lamenting in “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” written directly in the wake of his brother’s death, or raging on his earlier epic and rock hard “Whipping Post,” Allman hit chocolaty notes that define emotion through singing. Swirls of Hammond B3 organ, recognizable as his alone, perfectly accented his one-of-a-kind conveyance of the blues.
Broadcast live on Syracuse University’s WAER radio at the time, the soundboard tapes of the show have been remastered for this album by producer Bill Levenson, long touted for his work on projects such as this. The resulting audio quality far surpasses that of the bootlegs in circulation and is in fact quite punchy and in-the-moment real. Regardless, The Allman Brothers Band played revolutionary music. That is the number one reason this recording arrives highly recommended.
Tom Clarke for MAS
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