Friday, July 6, 2007

No. 49: At Fillmore East

Band: The Allman Brothers Band
Album: At Fillmore East
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: If you want the guitar solos and long jams, here they are, at their best. The Allmans use two guitars, two drummers, a bassist and a keyboard player in varying different degrees of soloing and come out with songs that range from just under three minutes to a 30+ minute reworking of Donovan's "There is a Mountain" (called "Mountain Jam" here).
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Who really wants to listen to 33 minutes of one song? I mean, really. Depending on your view of jam bands, this is a typical look at what influenced a lot of southern-influenced jam bands and it isn't pretty.
Best song: "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" is widely considered one of the best songs on the record. It is, though, 13 minutes long. So, my vote goes to the shorter songs, like "Statesboro Blues."
Worst song: Seriously. Thirty three minutes? "Mountain Jam" is too long.
Is it awesome?: If you like jam banding and guitar soloing, yes. If not, no.

I touched on it in writing about "Dark Side of The Moon," but I enjoy progressive rock. I don't mind long songs, if they go somewhere. One of my favorite albums is Pink Floyd's "Animals," an album consisting of three 13-minute or longer songs (complete with time changes, talk boxes and cowbells), bookended by an acoustic theme about love. I can appreciate long songs. I certainly can appreciate musicianship.

Most jam bands, however, don't float my boat. They just don't. I like jazz enough; Part of the form of jazz is improvisation. That's not to say that rock and roll has no room for improvisation, but everyone has their limits.

I've never been a particular fan of really blues-influenced rock and roll. A lot of it teeters on blue collar rock and a lot of it turns into jam-band style southern rock. "At Fillmore East" goes over the second line considerably. Six of the 13 songs on the deluxe edition go over 7.5 minutes, most of which is guitar solo. The 33-minute jam on "Mountain Song" is impressive in it's length (I can't imagine knowing what to do, musically, for 33 minutes), but it does get old. That's a sitcom, for Christ's sake.

Nevertheless, the Allmans are important. In the same vein that the Grateful Dead are important for their influence on jam bands to come, the Allmans are the more talented, musician-wise, of that genre. Add into it that they are, along with Lynyrd Skynyrd, the standard bearers of Southern rock. They're absolutely important, I just don't really care for the epic jams.

No comments: