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Allman Brothers Band still the best

By Michael Nicholson | Globe Correspondent
August 12, 2013
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This article was originally published in The Boston Globe on May 1, 1973.

The Allman Brothers Band played Saturday night before a full house at the Garden in their first Boston appearance since the tragic loss of their bassist Berry Oakley in a motorcycle accident last winter.

The story of how it was within a few days of one year and a few blocks away from where guitarist Duane Allman died in a similar accident is no less incredible than the ability to the remaining and newer band members to take up the slack and keep the group as exciting and crowd-pleasing revisionist blues band that it is.

The crowd’s warm reception was second only to that of the Stones last summer, in my memory, and they were amply rewarded with two full sets of old and new material by a band that was clearly up to the occasion.

There are two new members in the band now. On piano is Chuck Levall, a good addition whose fluid solos are a noteworthy contribution to the sound of the group. Lamar Williams, friend of drummer Jai Johnny Johnson, is the new bass player. Butch Trucks, the other drummer; Dicky Betts, on lead guitar, and Gregg Allman on vocals, organ and rhythem guitar, round out the group.

Dicky Betts seems to be the main reason why the group retains their high level of performance. His solos are always done well, superbly crafted and coherent, and with a keen sense of balance between the other parts of the songs. The closing number of the first set, written by Betts and identified only as being off their forthcoming “Brothers and Sisters” album for Capricorn, was a truly great moment and illustrated the point nicely. In a sense, one long guitar solo, its lyrical fluidity and fire ebbed and flowed through several smooth, tight changes, flickering to a finish like a multiple-imaged after trail failing into itself. Sheer poetry and excitement, too!

There is room from improvement, though. Gregg’s vocals are cardboard-gray ordinary and I still can’t see what they’re hoping to accomplish with two drummers that they couldn’t do better with one, but I won’t belabor these obvious deficiencies. The Allman Brothers Band remains the best heavy guitar blues band in the land.

Opening the night was the Pabst Blue Ribbon Band, a derivative blues and R&B group, although they are derived not from the Delta but from the Allmans and the dead. The drummer, who also does the singing, likes to stand up once in a while as he plays but there is nothing about them that is striking.

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