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Album Spotlight: The Allman Brothers Band: ‘Fillmore West ’71’

A pre-Fillmore East set that captures the original band’s improvisational live high-wire act.

The Allman Brothers Band

Fillmore West ’71

Six weeks before cutting their classic At Fillmore East, the legendary Allman Brothers lineup held the middle slot on a weekend triple bill at promoter Bill Graham’s Fillmore West. Those shows were recorded and tucked away until now. And while the sound quality is similar to a really good bootleg board recording, with occasional imbalances in the mix and hints of mud or fizz, it’s a pleasure to dig into 26 song performances on four CDs. Not just to enjoy Duane and Dickey’s interplay—although it’s grand, revealing a deeper layer of grit in their tones and lots of on-the-fly explorations (Duane’s magic-wand slide! Dickey’s mean-ass blasting!)—but to hear how the best ensemble rock band of the era improvised within the framework of their durable repertoire every night. In that respect, it’s a playbook for performing guitarists.

Must-hear tracks: “You Don’t Love Me” (1/31/71 and 1/29/71), “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” (1/29/71), “Dreams” (1/29/71)

Here’s “Trouble No More” from Fillmore West ’71, providing a sonic-warts-’n’–all preview of the newly released four-CD set. What’s absolutely clear is the quality of Duane Allman’s and Dickey Betts’ performances.