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The Allman Brothers - Live at the Fillmore East Print E-mail
Tuesday, 25 November 1997

The Allman Brothers
Live at the Fillmore East
format: DTS 5.1 CD
label: HDS/Polygram
release year: 2000
performance: 7
sound 5
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image I am generally in favor of being as free from convention as possible when it comes to instrument placement in surround. However, I regret that I seldom feel inclined to extend that freedom to live albums. In the majority of live albums (with the exception of Pink Floyd, Yes, and a few others), the original live mix was never better than mere stereo, and often rather less. A studio album allows artist and producer to do more or less what they like, from surround positioning to instrumentation and arrangement: when it comes to performing it live, you can always find a way to represent the studio recording effectively with perhaps more limited musical resources. A live album, on the other hand, is essentially a record of an actual musical event, and there is a lot to be said for attempting to re-create that event for the listener at home.

Although that re-creation may require a little help or exaggeration to make up for the lack of visual cues and the general excitement of "being there," it probably does not require wrapping the musicians around the listener. A front soundstage, albeit wider than usual, with decent ambience and audience participation across the rear, is probably sufficient. And given that this early ‘70s quad mix was probably mixed from not-very-many multitrack channels, the musical resources of a fairly straightforward rock band are here sorely stretched to fill the 270 degrees or so that this mix attempts.

That being said, this album, originally a double vinyl release, is musically a good record of an important band's work at a particular period in a career that more or less continues to this day. It's a fairly laid-back, bluesy performance with a good feel, and it is only aspects of the quarter-century-old mix that let this album down. Apart from the dubious instrument placement, the transitions between songs are often roughly faded and edited. Occasionally solos (the Hammond in "Stormy Monday," for example) are a bit distant, while elsewhere people leap out too much. But the overall sound is good, and although the audience seems a long way off, they seem to have enjoyed some excellent playing on an album that, musically at least, represents this successfully long-lived band more than adequately.

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