Allman Brothers Band – The Final Note – Painter’s Mill Music Fair – 1971
Allman Brothers Band – Warner Theatre 2005 – Double CD
From a handheld cassette, a young radio journalist Sam Idas captured a live show Oct. 17, 1971, of the Allman Brothers 12-days before lead guitarist & founding member Duane Allman’s death.
49-years later almost to the day & more of a document than a well-recorded, professional live show The Final Note — recorded at Painter’s Mill Music Fair in Owings Mills, MD (drops Oct. 16 – Allman Bros Records). This concert is for aficionados & completists. Despite capturing the original Allman Brothers at peak powers, at Duane’s last show, the tape quality is still amateurish, but the charm of it – it sounds like you’re sharing this music with a friend who brought it over with a 6-pack of beer to your basement for a listening session.
But the tape does roughly capture the excitement of the performance. There are muddy moments, some distorted seconds, but you can hear that the concert itself, the musicians, performed with proficiency. The solos, the groove – it’s there. It’s not a recording of a local high school band.
It has a distance in the performance – the recorder was not on stage but in the audience. The smoke in the place that night was not from cigarettes & doobies but the performance. They were indeed on fire. It’s on that little cassette. Too bad the record company didn’t have the intuition to record this band consistently live for prosperity even if they had no plan to release a live LP.
Driven by the superb rhythm section of Berry Oakley (bass) & drummers Jaimoe & Butch Trucks the 8-cut CD includes band classics: Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” Muddy Water’s “Trouble No More,” & Allman originals “Don’t Keep Me Wondering,” Betts’ instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” (edited due to recording issues), “Hot ‘Lanta,” the 12-minute+ classic “Whipping Post,” & the covers of “One Way Out,” & “Done Somebody Wrong.”
Juicy Carter adds sax to 3 & joins additionally Duane Allman (lead/slide guitars), Gregg Allman (Hammond B3 organ/ lead vocals), & Dickey Betts (lead guitar). The fold-out CD & 16-page stitched insert have good concert pictures. This effort captures a bit of musical history. Will you listen to this a hundred times? No. It’s a conversational piece? Yes.
From the 49-minute fan cassette, “The Final Note” (cleaned up & produced by the Allman Brothers & Bert Holman) is strictly for obsessive fans. Others would fare better with officially released live recordings.
On the 2-CD set with 19-cuts Allman Brothers Band – Warner Theater July 19, 2005 (Drops Oct 16 – Double CD – Peach Records) – in contrast, is a wealth of well-recorded live music from a theater (that opened in 1931) in Erie, PA, an obscure venue. Some believe this is one of the best Allman performances captured live. The early 70s preoccupation with southern rock as a major force may have worn thin by 2005 but here for the uninitiated & the young — the chemistry, magic & excitement of this veteran band obviously still possesses them.
The opener is the Allman Brothers-Donovan Leitch “Mountain Jam” & comes in 2-performances: a 12-solid minute open & a 9-minute reprise. Many of their classics are here including terrific covers of Dylan, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Robbie Robertson, Van Morrison, & Elmore James.
These 2005 set musicians are Warren Haynes (lead/slide guitar – right side & lead vocals); Derek Trucks (lead/slide guitars on the left side). Gregg Allman (lead vocals/Hammond B3/piano/acoustic guitar), Jaimoe (drums), Oteil Burbridge (bass), Marc Quinones (congas/percussion, background vocals) with Susan Tedeschi (lead vocal guitar on “Don’t Think Twice).
Throughout this live recording, the clarity & drive is excellent, especially beginning with track 2’s classic “Statesboro Blues,” where the lead guitar is blissful & the lead vocals are mindful of Johnny Winter.
I’m not a big fan of live shows — my ears get stuck on the original version & many bands never reproduce their studio work as well. Others do. These guys always do. The guitarists (Haynes & Trucks) pay tribute to former lead guitarist Dickey Betts by playing a 16-minute version of his classic “Jessica.” Beautiful.
The show sizzles. Gregg Allman’s authoritative vocals are a centerpiece. His voice maintains its soul, grit, rock & roll potency. But I always believed the reason the Allman’s were superior to others was due to their vein of authenticity other great Southern bands didn’t possess. Those bands had great musicianship & songs but were not as rooted in the blues as the Allman’s. Their longevity has proved their worthiness. Missteps, a few during their career, not everything is a jewel. But when they did hit their mark & the weight went to the top — it rang the bell. They were exceptional musicians & interpreters. Finding additional live shows as proficient as this – the enthusiasm potent, the dynamic sharp, the groove deep, the soul smoking – it’s a thrill to listen to.
There isn’t a weak, uninspired cut among these live songs. You’d think there would be. Some have been played by the group thousands of times. But no, the inspirational power still drives the vehicle. Nothing sounds rehashed or reheated. This was the last & longest lineup. For Allman Brother fans & the newly curious – this is a meticulous set, well-recorded & performed without losing any of the enduring quality of what made the Allman Brothers a truly memorable, original & historic American band.
The CD: produced by the Allman Brothers is available on eBay, Target & their website: https://allmanbrothersband.com/