Sometimes it’s cool to write music reviews, especially if it gets you a sneak peak of live recordings by the Allman Brothers Band…

On July 29, 2014, something old by the Allman Brothers Band will morph into something new. For many years, their album At Fillmore East has been regarded as a crowning achievement in the world of live rock recordings. But that album, as excellent as it is, was somewhat incomplete because it only included highlights of recordings made over the weekend of March 12-13, 1971 and Fillmore East’s closing night, June 27, 1971. Fillmore East was a legendary concert venue in New York City, which operated from 1968 until 1971. Promoter Bill Graham owned Fillmore East, as well as its counterparts on the West Coast, Fillmore Auditorium and Fillmore West, in San Francisco, California. Next week, on the 29th of July, Allman Brothers Band fans will get to hear all of the concerts played in March 1971 and the entire concert from June 27, 1971. What results is a new box set entitled The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings. The new box set will come in three formats: six CDs, four LPs, or three Blu-ray DVDs.

I jumped when the opportunity came up for me to review this box set. I love the Allman Brothers Band’s music, especially when they play live. Though I didn’t happen to own a copy of their At Fillmore East album, I had heard enough of their live stylings to know that I’d enjoy this box set. I’ve spent most of today listening to the six CD version of this new box set and I have really gained a new appreciation for the Allman Brothers Band. These concerts were recorded just after the band, which is one of the defining examples of Southern rock, had released its second album. The live album put them on the map. Unfortunately, not long after At Fillmore East was released to great critical acclaim, founding member Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. The date was October 29, 2972 and he was only 24 years old at the time. Berry Oakley, the original bassist who played on these recordings, also died at age 24 in 1972.

“Stormy Monday” from At Fillmore East.

The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings is a great box set for hard core Allman Brothers Band fans. What you’ll get is a lot of joyfully played Southern rock, blended with blues and jazz and long, passionate jams by Dickey Betts on guitar juxtaposed with Gregg Allman’s too sexy for words vocals and Chuck Leavell’s sensual organ. I’m guessing that any one of the shows featured on this box set were unforgettable. That being said, I will comment again that I’ve been listening to this box set all day and as these are concerts from 1971, before some of the Allman Brothers Band’s biggest hits were recorded, you’ll get a lot of repetition. For example, this box set has four different versions of “Statesboro Blues”, all of which are only slightly different from each other. It also has three different versions of “Whipping Post”, each of which run for approximately 20 minutes. Don’t get me wrong… each version of these songs is a delight! But listening to this box set straight through may lead to overload, which is why I recommend taking your time and really savoring each disc. Taken just a bit at a time, these recordings are stellar, with amazingly creative jams that surely transfixed the audience. Moreover, you also get unedited versions of gems like “Mountain Jam”, which runs for over 35 minutes, and some previously unreleased material.

It’s been such a pleasure to sit here and listen to the Allman Brothers Band play when they were up and coming. There are some moments on this box set that I like better than others. For instance, the song “Stormy Monday” is pure bliss, with its effortlessly bluesy sound and Gregg Allman’s soulful voice like an aural orgasm. As I’ve listened to them today, it occurs to me how much they’ve influenced other great acts… for instance, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, which has done some songs that remind me very much of early Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers truly mastered the art of live jamming and others have taken note and emulated them.

The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings are well worth owning if you’re a fan of The Allman Brothers Band’s music. It’s a box set that is great to just sit and listen to and admire. You can hear the band members banter and engage the crowd; it’s like hearing a piece of rock and roll history. For those who are hoping for “Jessica”, “Melissa”, or “Ramblin’ Man”, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings will be a disappointment because those songs came later in the band’s history. If you want to hear where it all began– with all the original members– you’d do well to pick up a copy of this box set. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it for some time to come! Highly recommended!

On another note, starting next week I will be very much engaged in my move to Germany, so I may not be around much until we get settled, which could take a few weeks. Until then, be well! See you on the flip side!