Posts Tagged ‘Duane Allman’

“At Fillmore East” by the Allman Brothers Band (1971)

The first two albums by the Allman Brothers Band drew plenty of critical acclaim, and the latter, “Idlewild South,” rose to No. 38 on Billboard. But the main knock on those efforts was that, as good as they were, they hardly captured the concert experience.

Perhaps taking a cue from other bands in similar situations – the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service come to mind – the Allmans opted to record live for their third album. On March 12 and 13, 1971, the tape rolled at New York’s Fillmore East, capturing a couple of performances. The reels went to producer Tom Dowd, who did some tweaking to come up with two LPs’ worth of material.

The results were better than anyone could have anticipated, given the Allmans’ propensity to stretch out songs and the relatively primitive recording technology available. “At Fillmore East” captures what may have been the most dynamic rock band of the time, and that certainly was when giants roamed the earth.

The Allmans and Dowd divided the LPs thematically: The first consisted of blues covers, the second of originals. In this band’s case, the term “cover” is used loosely; each of the first four tracks is given a treatment that defines it as an Allman Brothers standard.

The album kicks off with its most radio-friendly song to this day, Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues.” Willie never would have envisioned the power of Duane Allman’s opening slide guitar licks, punctuated by the rest of the band playing the main riff, launching into an eminently memorable blues-rock groove. Gregg Allman, though just 23 at the time, nails the half-boasting, half-pleading attitude of the tune’s narrator.

“Done Somebody Wrong” – credited to Elmore James, Clarence Lewis and Bobby Robinson – follows in a similar vein, with the Allmans giving the song a much grittier reading than the version did as “I Ain’t Done Wrong” several years earlier. Guest Thom Doucette complements the performance on some well-played harmonica.

Duane introduces “Stormy Monday” as a Bobby “Blue” Bland song before correcting himself to credit composer T-Bone walker, who called it “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad).” Some notable rock versions included those by early hard-rockers Cream and Mountain, but the Allmans ended up with the definitive version, a slow blues that allows Duane and fellow guitarist Dickey Betts to show off their chops. Dowd cut about three minutes off the song for the LP; the full version later was released on the compilation called “The Fillmore Concerts.”

“You Don’t Love Me” is another popular blues-rock numbers of the ’60s, recorded by the likes of Kaleidoscope, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and the Al Kooper-Stephen Stills “Super Session” project. Those versions of the Willie Cobbs song are minor efforts compared with the Allmans’ behemoth: 19 minutes of guitar virtuosity, the likes of which hadn’t been heard on vinyl to that point, especially Duane’s lengthy unaccompanied turn. No wonder he was one of the most-demanded session guitarists of the era, in addition to his regular gig.

A relatively compact instrumental, “Hot ‘Lanta,” follows, a group composition that shows the Allmans’ collective knack for adapting melodic hooks to more complex arrangements, this time by way of bass player Berry Oakley. The outro seems to go on just a bit long, but it does give percussionist Butch Trucks an opportunity to display his skills on timpani.

Betts’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” which appears on “Idlewild South” as the band’s first original instrumental, doubles its length for the live version. The song demonstrates the band’s ability to seamlessly incorporate jazz elements into its repertoire, to a point that the musicians have drawn favorable comparisons to the work of John Coltrane and Miles Davis, which in as of itself is quite a feat. Trucks and fellow drummer Jai Johanny Johanson team up for an extended percussion duet, one that would grow in length in concerts over the decades.

The LP’s four side starts with one of rock’s classic artist-audience discourses.

Duane: “Berry starts her off.”

Fan: “‘Whipping Post’!”

Duane: “You guessed it.”

Oakley’s thundering bass in 11/4 time opens the epic, with the other instruments reaching a crescendo before Gregg begins wailing his tale of woe: “I’ve been run down, I’ve been lied to, and I don’t know why I let that girl make me out a fool/Took all my money, wrecked my new car, now she’s with one of my good-time buddies, they’re drinking in some cross-town bar.”

After the chorus, Duane takes an extended solo prior to the second verse: “My friends tell me I’ve been such a fool, and I had to stand back and take it, baby, all for loving you/I drown myself in sorrow as I look at what you’ve done/Nothing seems to change, the bad times stay the same, and I can’t run.”

Betts then solos before he and Duane take the song up the scale to its climax, where listeners to the debut album, “The Allman Brothers Band,” would expect the song’s finale. Instead, the band immerses itself into improvisational mode, seemingly drawing from the New Thing school of jazz before Betts comes up with a tidy guitar lead against well-assembled backing. Finally, Gregg’s vocal closes the proceedings …

… but not so fast. The group experiments again, with Duane throwing in a bit of the familiar “Frere Jacque,” for several more minutes before Gregg groans the actual finale, “Lord don’t you know, that I feel, like I’m dying.” The band wraps it up before Trucks starts rolling on the tympani to signal the start to another song.

Those present at the concert, itself, knew what followed. But it wasn’t until the release of “Eat a Peach” the following year that album listeners learned that the 22-plus minutes of “Whipping Post” segued into 33-plus minutes of “Mountain Jam.” The two later were linked in that manner on “The Fillmore Concerts,” after CD technology made such a pairing possible.

“At Fillmore East” spreads nearly 80 minutes of music over only seven tracks, but even critics who usually complain about extended compositions seem to agree that the Allmans provide one of the few examples in which more actually is more.

The record-buying public agreed, sending the album to No. 13 and establishing the Allman Brothers Band as one of the hottest acts going.

On Oct. 29, 1971, Duane Allman was riding his motorcycle in his hometown of Macon, Ga., when he struck the back of a flatbed truck that had stopped suddenly in the middle of an intersection. He died a few hours later, just 24 years old.

The Allman Brothers Band not only managed to soldier on but still is a top concert draw more than 40 years later, with Gregg, Butch and Jaimoe around from the Fillmore East days. The group has continued to produce quality music, but its third album always will stand as its high-water mark.

“Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek & the Dominos (1970)

Superstardom may have seemed inevitable for Eric Clapton, but for a while he did his best to avoid it.

Having gained international fame through his work with John Mayall’s Blues Breakers and especially Cream, Clapton seemed to want to ratchet it up a notch after the latter band splintered. Joining with Traffic’s Steve Winwood, Family’s Ric Grech and Cream associate Ginger Baker, Clapton formed Blind Faith, for which the term “supergroup” was coined.

That project didn’t work out as well as expected, so Clapton decided to ditch the spotlight and play guitar for an American husband-and-wife team, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. Then there was the show he played as part of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band on Sept. 13, 1969, as captured on the “Live Peace in Toronto” album and D.A. Pennebaker’s “Sweet Toronto” movie. Proceedings go well until Yoko starts doing her thing all over the audience, as John so aptly puts it, but it’s kind of fun to watch the guys flailing away on their guitars as she caterwauls.

Back to Delaney and Bonnie: Clapton liked the other members of their band so much that he drafted them to play on his first solo album, “Eric Clapton,” recorded November 1969 through January 1970. Then bassist Carl Radle, keyboard player Bobby Whitlock and drummer Jim Gordon teamed up with Clapton to tour as Derek & the Dominos, which represented an attempt to keep a low profile.

Other “Dominos,” including George Harrison, went into the studio to record a couple of songs for a single, “Tell the Truth” and the lascivious “Roll It Over.” The single was released but quickly withdrawn, and the four regular members of the band subsequently traveled to Miami to work with producer Tom Dowd on a full album.

Dowd happened to also be working on the Allman Brothers Band’s “Idlewild South” at the time, and he invited Clapton to check out the Allmans at a Miami concert. Members of both groups headed back to Criteria Studios for an all-night jam session, and Clapton promptly invited Duane to sit in on laying down tracks for the album.

The result generally is regarded as the pinnacle of Clapton’s half-century of recording, a combination of original songs and blues covers, most drawing on the theme of unrequited love. Of course, much of that stemmed from Clapton’s own unrequited love for Harrison’s wife, Patti, the “Layla” of the album’s classic title track.

At first glance, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” seems sprawling, with its 14 songs spread over two albums in its original incarnation. And some critics at the time thought they detected some filler among the compositions.

That might be true for the album’s closer, “Thorn Tree in the Garden,” which is Whitlock’s song. Otherwise, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” stands as a statement by musicians putting on a clinic.

Several of the originals – “I Looked Away,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Keep on Growing,” “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” and a slowed-down “Tell the Truth” – have become classic-rock standards, while the covers as just as scintillating, especially Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway.” On the album, the song fades in, as the engineers didn’t quite capture the beginning of what started as an informal jam.

Clapton had been performing Billy Myles’ “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” since his Blues Breakers days, but the song takes on particular poignance in the “Layla” setting, nailing the Eric-Pattie relationship: “all the time you know she belongs to your very best friend.”

The LP’s fourth side opens with a hard-edged cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” which was was recorded right around the time of Jimi’s death. And the call-and-response vocals of Clapton and Whitlock are put to effective use on Chuck Willis’ “It’s Too Late,” as witnessed in the band’s appearance on Johnny Cash’s TV show.

The Clapton-Allman collaboration culminates with “Layla,” with its blistering dual-guitar attack leading in to Eric’s definitive tale of woe. The song eventually segues into a piano coda, composed and played by Gordon with the guitarists adding their flourishes.

The album reached No. 16 in the United States but failed to chart in Britain, probably because of Clapton’s muted presence. Thanks to the title track’s re-release as a single a few years later, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” eventually went gold. Twenty years after its recording, it was released as a three-CD “deluxe package” featuring two discs of instrumental jams and outtakes, the first of its kind and still one of the best.

As for Derek & the Dominos, they toured the U.S., then started working on a second album before the inevitable breakup. Clapton went into a drug-induced seclusion for a couple of years before finally producing the top-selling “461 Ocean Boulevard,” his solo masterpiece.

Radle rejoined Clapton for that album and was part of his band through the ’70s. Carl died in 1980 from a kidney infection.

Whitlock recorded four solo albums in the ’70s before spending much of the next two decades out of the music business. He returned to recording, performing and songwriting in 1999.

Gordon remained a sought-after session drummer, playing with the likes of Lennon, Harrison, Traffic, Steely Dan, Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa. Unfortunately, he developed schizophrenia and was eventually was convicted for the 1983 murder of his mother.

Allman was riding his motorcycle in his hometown of Macon, Ga., on Oct. 29, 1971, when he ran into a flatbed truck carrying a lumber crane. He died a few weeks short of his 25th birthday.

He never knew what his collaboration with Eric Clapton would mean to rock music’s legacy.

“Eat a Peach” by the Allman Brothers Band (1972)

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Duane Allman established himself as one of the most-sought session guitar players of the era, complementing everyone from Aretha Franklin to Eric Clapton. In his own group, he helped establish a sound and style that still stands at the forefront of Southern rock.

The Allman Brothers Band had broken through commercially and artistically with its third album, “At Fillmore East,” recorded at the famed New York City venue in March 1971 and released that July.

On Oct. 29, Duane was riding his Harley-Davidson in his hometown of Macon, Ga., when a flatbed truck stopped suddenly in front of him. He was thrown from the bike, which landed on top of him, and died shortly afterward.

He was 24 years old.

The Allmans had recorded a few studio tracks with Duane that hadn’t yet been released, and plenty still remained from the Fillmore recordings. The remaining members worked on some more tunes, and the first post-Duane album appeared little more than three months after his death.

“Eat a Peach” – its name was taken from a Duane quote about eating a peach for peace – may appear to be a patched-together project, but the result sounds like anything but. Most of the studio tracks and the shorter live numbers have found their way into Classic Rock radio rotation, and the longer tunes have remained part of the Allmans’ live repertoire to this day.

About those epic recordings, let’s start with the marathon: “Mountain Jam,” which took up two entire sides of the original vinyl. A group composition based on the riff of Donovan’s “First There Is a Mountain,” the Fillmore version clocks in at 33 1/2 minutes on the joined-together CD track.

The song actually segues out of a 22-minute performance of the band’s classic “Whipping Post,” with Duane and fellow guitarist Dickey Betts setting a breezy tone to open. After repeating the theme twice, Duane embarks on a solo about three minutes in, followed by brother Gregg’s turn on the Hammond organ, then Dickey’s fuzz-toned licks. Drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson team up for the spotlight, which wraps up Side Two of the LP.

On vinyl, Berry Oakley starts Side Four with one of the more memorable bass solos in rock history. Then comes a rousing guitar duet between Duane and Dickey before the song returns to its theme.

Also recorded at the Fillmore East – this time at the venue’s final show, on June 27, 1971 – is the definitive reading of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “One Way Out,” which has become a staple of FM radio over the past four decades. The other live track is Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More,” a version of which the band first did on its debut album in 1969.

In the studio, the three tracks recorded by the five-piece are “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” the lengthy instrumental “Les Brers in A Minor” and “Melissa.” The latter quickly became one of the most beloved pieces in the band’s catalog.

“Eat a Peach” fittingly wraps up with the three remaining studio songs featuring Duane: “Stand Back,” Betts’ classic “Blue Sky” and “Little Martha,” the Allmans’ only tune written solely by Duane. To this day, the song is played over the PA system after every Allman Brothers Band show as a tribute to one of rock’s true legends.