Macon City Auditorium: 2/11/72

by: The Allman Brothers Band

On the first two releases from their own record label, the Allman Brothers Band focused on archival live collections from the earliest configuration of the group, which featured lead guitarist Duane Allman, who was killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971. On this third release, the archivists turn to the lineup that existed just after Allman's death, which consisted simply of the remaining five members: singer/keyboard player Gregg Allman, guitarist/singer Dickey Betts, bass player Berry Oakley, and drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks. After Duane died, the decision to continue without him was made quickly, but the band did not consider replacing him. Since a hallmark of their sound had been the twin guitar parts of Allman and Betts, however, some rearrangement of the material was necessary. The two shows compressed into nearly 98 minutes on the two CDs here occurred less than four months after the accident, but according to annotator John Lynskey, the Allmans were making their 23rd appearance as a quintet. So, the performance finds them settled into the new approach. It is one in which Gregg Allman's organ playing is more prominent, and in which, as Lynskey notes, Oakley is adding what are essentially low-note guitar parts on his bass here and there. But the big change, of course, is in the guitar sound. Betts plays some of Duane's parts on the familiar numbers of the repertoire (the band was also introducing material from its about-to-be-released album Eat a Peach), but he is reinventing himself as well as evoking his late partner in many of his solos, notably during the 21-and-a-half-minute "You Don't Love Me," when he really solos in the absolute sense -- everyone else lays out and lets him play by himself. At the same time, of course, when Betts is playing like Allman, no one is playing like Betts, and that is noticeable, for example, in "One Way Out," which is simply lacking its rhythm guitar part because there's nobody to play it. By early November 1972 (just prior to Oakley's fatal motorcycle accident), nine months and another 70 shows later, the Allmans would return to being a sextet with the addition of pianist Chuck Leavell. So, the quintet period is a short one in the band's history. On the basis of this recording, it can be judged as more than just a case of musicians bravely soldiering on; without Duane, they all have to work a little harder, and even if they're not the same, they demonstrate their right to keep calling themselves the Allman Brothers Band. ~ William Ruhlmann

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