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Review: Betts shines on new Allman Brothers live albums

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Allman Brothers Betts Haynes Woody courtesy

The Allman Brothers Band lineup in 1992 included, from left, Dickey Betts, Warren Haynes and Allen Woody. COURTESY PHOTO

“Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theatre 1992,” “Live at Great Woods” (DVD, 1991), “Boston Common 8/17/71” by Allman Brothers Band. Release date: Feb. 18.
GRADE: A, Hear here: allmanbrothersband.com

Several weeks before the Allman Brothers Band begins what will likely be its last run at the Beacon Theatre, fans have the opportunity to hear a gripping, new live album culled from the group’s first extended residency at the famed New York venue. Epic/Legacy Recordings’ “Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theatre 1992” finally provides ABB enthusiasts with a fully realized concert document of the band’s superb, recently reunited roster of the early 1990s.

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Allman Brothers Play All NightFounding members Gregg Allman (keyboards, lead vocals), Dickey Betts (guitars, lead vocals) and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson are joined by new members Warren Haynes (guitars, vocals), Allen Woody (bass) and Marc Quiñones (percussion) with special guest Thom Doucette on harmonica. Largely led by the wild and soulful Betts, who lives in Sarasota, it’s a delightful and daring performance by a band from the classic rock era refusing to play it safe.

Culled from back-to-back concerts with the original recordings produced by the late, great Tom Dowd (“At Fillmore East,” “Eat a Peach”) and produced for this release by Haynes, “Play All Night” features 16 tracks sequenced like a typical setlist from the era. The only previously released track, “Revival,” appears on the 1992 live album “An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: First Set,” a collection of nine songs, which, like its 1995 follow-up “An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: 2nd Set,” really only teases listeners.

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Allman Brothers Epic Legacy 1992

The Allman Brothers Band lineup in 1992, from left, Allen Woody, Jaimoe Johanson, Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Dickey Betts, Marc Quiñones and Butch Trucks. COURTESY PPHOTO

“Play All Night” features a reinvigorated Allman Brothers lineup embracing its rich heritage with fresh, smartly reworked renditions of selections from the Duane Allman era – including four from ABB’s landmark 1971 live album “At Fillmore East.” But the group also impresses with fiery renditions of songs from the band’s terrific, Dowd-produced early 1990s studio albums “Seven Turns” and “Shades of Two Worlds.” Post-Duane gems such as an extra-peppy rendition of Betts’ ebullient instrumental “Jessica” are also among the highlights on this outstanding double album that’s at once challenging and satisfying.

On Feb. 18, Epic/Legacy Recordings will also release the DVD format debut of “Live at Great Woods.” Filmed at the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts in Mass. a few months before the Beacon shows resulting in “Play All Night,” it’s another testament to the potency of the 1990s Allman Brothers Band lineup led by the intrepid dueling guitar work of Betts and Haynes. For guitar geeks, it doesn’t get much better than watching the interplay between the two musicians on “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” while watching them sweetly harmonize on the vocals of “Blue Sky” should impress even casual fans. Although “Live at Great Woods” does not offer any fun extras such as behind-the-scenes interviews, it’s a great addition to any ABB fan’s collection just to see and hear this sizzling 11-song performance.

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Allman Brothers Boston Common Duane

Duane Allman pictured in the liner notes of the Allman Brothers Band CD "Boston Common 8-17-71."

In addition to Epic’s releases, the Allman Brothers Band Recording Company’s archive gem, “Boston Common 8/17/71,” first made available in 2007, will also be reissued Feb. 18. When it comes to the Duane Allman era of the ABB, nothing touches “At Fillmore East,” a masterful marriage of stellar playing and judicious editing by Dowd. As for the handful of official retrospective Duane-era live albums derived from old tapes, they are all important for various reasons. On balance, though, “Boston Common,” recorded about two months before Duane’s death, might be the best.

It has relatively strong sound quality and a great setlist that includes 26-minute version of “You Don’t Love Me.” The performance finds Duane Allman and Dickey Betts weaving in and out of each other with unmatched mastery. It’s the pinnacle of the sound that made the Allman Brothers Band.



Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo has been an entertainment reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: February 11, 2014
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