The Allman Brothers Band
Play All Night:Live at the Beacon Theater 1992
Live at Great Woods DVD
Boston Commons, 8/17/1971
(The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company)
Rating For All: 4 out of 5 stars
Nothing like leaving on a high note… Since these Allman Brothers Band live historical releases were scheduled before the group seems to be calling it a day on the year of their 45th anniversary, you can’t accuse them of flooding the market for a quick buck. On the contrary, compared to their peers the Grateful Dead who are seemingly on track to document every note they ever played, the Allmans’ lag far behind with archival material.
Two of these three performances date from the early 90s, not always considered the act’s best years. But evidence here shows otherwise as guitarists Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes along with bassist Allen Woody lock in on the material both old and new for the time (1991’s Seven Turns and ‘92’s Shades Of Two Worlds were well realized comeback albums that were being promoted) with a revitalized energy and determination spurred by an ecstatic audience. Fans may be disappointed that the existing CDs An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band and Second Set already cover this lineup, era and material. Still, the 1992 double disc Play All Night includes songs not on either of those, including a stunning acoustic version of Robert Johnson’s “Come On in My Kitchen” and an electric, 20 minute “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” (Second Set had a rare acoustic take of the tune) that alone are worth the price of admission.
The Great Woods DVD was recorded in September of 1991. The sound is a bit raw even on this reconfigured, remastered, long requested edition (first time on DVD without interviews annoyingly edited into the songs), yet the group is in top form on an eleven song, somewhat short 90 minute show originally recorded for Japanese TV. The seven piece delivers the blues rocking goods, looking particularly hairy yet inspired and sounding spirited, especially on a fiery “Hootchie Coochie Man” sung by Haynes and a short but potent acoustic section. The original show was probably twice as long, but this is the only video representation of the outfit from the period and as such is a keeper in this newly buffed edition.
Of course Duane is never far from anyone’s memory; Boston Commons, the fifth edition of tapes excavated from the Brothers’ vault, was recorded 8/17/71, 10 weeks before his death. The sound is inconsistent ranging from crisp to slightly distorted but always listenable. We could have done without the extended tuning, but the band is hot and turns in a typically rugged performance on their established repertoire of the time. “You Don’t Love Me” at 26 minutes is longest with 18 minutes of “Whipping Post” and thirteen more of “Elizabeth Reed” dominating the 79 minute gig. It won’t replace the Fillmore East album, but it’s not meant to and fans will relish more Duane (and Berry Oakley) in their collection, even if this isn’t as consistently explosive or inspired as other recordings.
There is plenty more where this came from too. The Allman Brothers Band may retire after this year but, like Hendrix and the Dead, their legacy will live on through quality live releases like these long after their touring days are over.