It was in 1974 that the Allman’s first decided to leave the stadia and arenas of the US behind and head for Europe and the UK for their first tours there – the ongoing 1973-‘74 oil crisis making decisions like this more and more difficult to justify making such and elongated trip, the band instead played just two large festivals – One in Holland (Summerconcert ‘74 in Hilversum, The Netherlands) and the other in Britain (‘Bucolic Frolic’ or the first Knebworth Festival as it would be known), according to reports on the website UK rock Festivals, The Allman’s just squeezed on to the performers list when the organiser couldn’t book Led Zeppelin and decided that the ideal fit was the first British appearance of this jam band.
There have been previous versions of this show available in collectors previous but this new tape (‘Another Mike B classic”) that the No Label label have just put out is another step above. As an almost complete tape, it’s awesome. The sound is vintage festival show in the 1970’s – Not too far away that all you hear is audience noise, not too close that all you hear is audience noise – the speakers were turned up nice and loud that day, the separation of the band enough that it’a a clear enough mono to get everyone in the mix without completely obliterating parts – Though it is obviously a little more guitar heavy. A slight airy crackle of static over the quieter parts which adds to the tapes vintage. There’s a cut in the tape after ‘Call It Stormy Monday’ and before, ‘Midnight Rider’, a fade out for the band break after, ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’. ‘Ramblin’ Man’ fades out early so we’re missing that part of the tape and ‘Whipping Post’ is only reasonably half recorded before it fades out too. Some of these are, presumably, to allow the sets to fit on the disks without fading out or chipping out big blocks – though, inevitably, due to such long songs, tape length stretched to a maximum, sacrifices had to be made.
The show itself is brilliant. Exactly what you’d expect from the band at the second peak of their powers – Despite the wear and tear of touring and the highlife that they were living, the performance is faultless. Mixing tracks from the first three albums – plus one from Greg’s solo album – the set zig-zags its way effortlessly through their career. The intro of ‘Wasted Words’, a slow and easy intro in to the hearts of the audience (And a nod to the heads who would have heard this track deeper in on the recent ‘Brothers And Sisters’ album) kicks us off and it’s all smooth taking from there. ‘Call It Stormy Monday’ is possibly the first track that really allows Chuck Levell to shine along side the band. Following ‘Midnight Rider’, Gregg makes a statement to the crowd, “We’re gonna play every damn thing we know if we can ever get .. all the amps fixed. We wanna dedicate all of this concert to Great Britain .. and Berry Oakley and Duane Allman” before the band roll through a wistful and light, ‘Blue Sky’ with a stunning and flighty solo by Dickey Betts. The crowd are helpful enough to help with the count in before the stunning, ‘Come And Go Blues’, Both Gregg and Chuck’s parts cascading towards on this Billy Preston styled bar-room rocker with a short swooping solo right in the middle. The first disk ends with the rolling and chooglin’ romp of ‘Ramblin’ Man’.
Disk two begins with the bluesy clap-along of ’Trouble No More’ before morphing in to possibly the biggest hit that the band had in the UK, ‘Jessica’. The hit receives possibly the biggest response of the show and because of this, gives out the most as the band go all out in reciprocation – long, playful piano solos, centipede-like guitar lines that wriggle about, falling and rising like a kite on the wind – the full experience lasts close to 15 minutes, bringing peals of appreciation from the crowd.
Berry’s avant-jazz inspired composition, ‘Les Brers in A Minor’ is the longest section tonight – Spanning almost 30 minutes (Including the drum solo in-between), it’s a behemoth to listen to, launching itself this way and that, looping between rock, soul, jazz, all elements in between – Each cast member gets their own shout throughout the duration and – knowing that the Allman’s are prompt to all this, none of the energy fades through out – keeping the momentum abuzz through the length of the entire cavalcade.
There’s one member of the audience who’s really feeling the beer-buzz now and stands at his vantage point, shouting at the top of his lungs, “Play all night”. Largely ignored, Gregg quips “We have enough time for one more love song” to which our friend on the grounds screams “Whipping post!”. Evidently, he gets his wish as the band quietly tune up for the ending and proceed to rip through a piano heavy version of the track – it’s Chuck that seems to be the biggest deal here tonight – Without Skydog in the band was it necessary that Dickey Betts is unfairly sidelined? – though despite the power of the band, the track itself feels wan and just a little less than it’s impact. Mercifully somehow, it seems agreeable that it’s cut short by a lack of tape length.
The set is packaged as simply as the Lighthouse sets are a single piece, double sided slip at the front with the same at the back. It looks like Mike B was well equipped however as there are some new photos on the inside that, amateur as they are, are nice to see from an audience members perspective. The rest of the package falls around it perfectly. After next to no new Allmans in bootleg circles (At least on silver) for a while now, it’s nice to hear a rare new tape, especially considering the performance was a scarce one in the UK. Certainly worth picking up.