Keep On Wondering (Godfather Records GR 606)
SUNY @ Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY – July 26th, 1970
( 75:37 ) Please Don’t Keep Me Wondering / Stormy Monday / In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed / You Don’t Love Me / Dreams / Mountain Jam.
Only 1 year & 4 months after the band had formed the Allman Brothers were one of the biggest bands in America – Their second album “Idlewild South” would have soon been released to more critical & public acclaim than it’s predecessor by turning down the gruff, moodiness that layered it, becoming a little lighter in tone & cutting shorter the lengthy jams that were part of the bands live specialties ( It might have worked for the Beatles but releasing a 7 minute song for the radio was only ever going to be gift afforded the royalty of Rock & only then of a marginal basis. )
The recording here, originally released as “Jamming In Midnight” by The Polar Bear Records (PB – 099/100) as a two CD set, ( This version omits “Whipping Post” but retains the lengthy “Mountain Jam” ) is a strong, bassy soundboard recording with only a little too much power for it’s own good. It’s not a broad stereo mix as instruments & voices all seem to come from the one place but this only bolsters it’s power. The small quibble with Allman fans might be that everyone seems to contest the recording date – The SUNY concert was reportedly on the 10th of July & not the 26th as it has been printed as before.
“Please Don’t Keep Me Wondering” boogies along like a hypnotizing snake with a flash of power in it’s eyes. it doesn’t take long for the band to break out the steam either – Gregg’s lusty voice spills out & beyond the mass of the music & it’s not long until Duane’s liquid guitar flashes in to view meandering through the rampant pulse on stage with an electric fury. “Stormy Monday” – A cover of the T-Bone Walker track – is pinpointed by Gregg’s keyboard part – the instrument that he became fluent on & pined upon playing after listening to Jimmy Smith on Nashville Radio station WLAC’s jazz broadcasts – and the instrument that he used to write the irst album upon – Gregg said recently “When my brother called me to join the Allman brothers on March 26, 1969, he said “I need you to play a Hammond.” One day they had a blindfold with ’em, and said. “We gotta take you somewhere.” They took me into this room in Berry Oakley’s house, ripped off the blindfold, and there was a brand new 1969 B-3 Hammond, a 122 RV Leslie, and about 8 joints rolled on the bottom keyboard. And they said “We’ll see you in a couple of weeks!” When I got to the Allman Brothers, I had a heyday. I wrote the first album within, like, a week and a half” – The blues is written hard in this version although the optimism in Gregg’s Hammond shines through. Duane’s exacting soloing creates a busy spiraling launch while Berry Oakley’s fastidious & melodious “Tractor” bass lines adds a splendid & rooted backbone to proceedings.
The Dicky Betts written “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” is the bands second “Idlewild South” track this evening. One of the highlights of the Allman’s live experiences it has space for each member of the band to flourish & improvise in which ever way they wish to. Multiple phases pass through the fleeting 11 minutes of the track ( One of the shorter renditions as the song would be drawn out to epic lengths reaching almost 3 minutes long some nights .. ) which has been compared by Duane as close to playing as Miles Davis in the jazz- rock field – “that kind of playing comes from Miles and Coltrane, and particularly Kind of Blue. I’ve listened to that album so many times that for the past couple of years, I haven’t hardly listened to anything else”. Shifting patterns litter the path where the band played before the tempo increases to a brilliant fury & the band crash to a dead stop.
With hardly a breather the band move on to a “Song that Junior Wells played long time ago ..” – “You Don’t Love Me”. A desperately funky groove follows full of splashing drums and an urgent phrase on the Hammond before Duane zips in on guitar to peel out a few more blistering chords.
“Dreams” from the Allman Brothers band’s eponymous album is a slow burner – all the hall marks are there of an Allman track & that the Hammond takes the first place puts fact to the track being written firstly on the instrument. The reason that it takes it time though is that its un-fetted of guitar until around the minute mark while the band take their time to venture in to the whole miasma of the journey. The sublime, syncopated drumming of messieurs. Johanson & Trucks form a unerring & brilliantly professional backbone that keeps it’s edge throughout. This slowly creeps towards ‘space-jam’ territory as springing feedback & wiggling histrionics are formed from out of nowhere by Duane. As the closing chorus is sung the the band fuel up, Gregg clears out all the stops with a screaming blues howl & the band turn up the tempo just enough to wind up with.
The monumental “Mountain Jam” follows. Clocking in at a glorious 35:48 the true extent of the whole should rightly be exhaustive but no matter the length of the rendition, the swooning improvisation always seems to pique interest. The song itself is based around Donovan Leitch’s 1967 track “There Is A Mountain” & features work from each of the band opening out the tune to all their strengths. Reaching through many different phrases – Classic rock, heavy metal, Jazz, Spanish classical guitar the whole melds together seemlessly. A dual drum solo at 7:13 is just one of many highlights – as Gregg put it “I went “Two full sets of drums?” I thought, train wreck, woah!” – It’s simply the thought of the cataclysmic mess that it could all turn in to that you’re waiting for but this pair are just so close in mind that not a single tic clashes & the closeness & approximation to a real jazz groove is so point perfect you could have tuned to jazz in it’s purist form before the near heavy metal chords strike up to a near ‘Bolero’ styled work out. The track then soars throughout tempos – gracefully bare then funky onslaught before settling in to deep bar blues.
The packaging is the standard Godfather trifold digi-pack featuring a b&w photo of the band sat on railway tracks with a bright orange version of the brothers logo super imposed over the top. The inside folds feature multiple pictures of Duane either live relaxing or at the “Hey Jude” session that he played at with Wilson Pickett. The back features Duane in session with a clear Biba-esque font listing the tracks.