Gregg Allman - vocals, Hammond B3 organ; Dickey Betts - guitar; Berry Oakley - bass; Butch Trucks - drums, percussion; Jai Johanny Johanson - drums, percussion; Guest: Johnny Winter - guitar, vocal (on last track)
Few bands could have recovered from such tragic personnel losses, as did the Allman Brothers Band. After the death of Duane Allman in 1971 and Berry Oakley the following year, few would have thought the Allman Brothers Band would carry on or could ever again be relevant. However, the Allman Brothers Band was a true brotherhood that went beyond the founding members' musical vision into a spiritual journey with their listeners. Not unlike their friends, the Grateful Dead, the Brothers were on a musical mission that their fan base embraced and inherently understood. The death of founding member and bandleader, Duane Allman, was certainly a crushing blow that could have ended their journey only two years after it began. Bassist Berry Oakley was the band member most responsible for re-establishing band unity following Duane's death. With Gregg too devastated, it was Oakley who became the band's de facto leader and he is generally credited with keeping the distraught band members going. Oakley's long, melodic bass runs were often responsible for propelling the direction of the music, as well as anchoring the songs during the group's extended improvisations. Rarely recognized for his groundbreaking musicianship, Oakley was an equal to the most innovative electric bass players of his generation, extending its role as much as Jack Bruce, Jack Casady, and Phil Lesh did within their respective bands and influencing countless bass players to follow.
When the Allman Brothers Band initially began soldiering on as a quintet in 1972, following the death of Duane, it was Berry Oakley who most filled in the sizable gap, playing with a newfound ferocity and focus. Although an incomplete recording, this slice of the Allman Brothers at the Hollywood Bowl in August of 1972, clearly displays the band continuing to forge their musical vision. Capturing the tail end of their set, as well as the first of two encores with Texas guitar slinger Johnny Winter as a guest, the group's music still has plenty of fire, inspired jamming and that intangible spiritual quality that was at the heart of their finest work.
The recording begins approximately three minutes into Dickey Betts defining composition, "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed." Despite the absence of the fluid and melodic twin guitar harmonies of Dickey and Duane, the group still sounds remarkably strong, not unlike the Eat A Peach material they were recording at the time. Oakley's sturdy bass lines are now more pronounced than ever before, thoroughly enhancing the guitar flights of Betts and the soulful organ work of Gregg Allman. It's a remarkably strong performance that precedes the set closer. Following this, Gregg Allman announces that they would like to play "a little love song for ya," just before Oakley's pulverizing opening bass riff launches the band into "Whipping Post." The sound of Oakley's modified Fender bass, nicknamed "Tractor," is bone crunching and it is he who leads the way into the penultimate performance of the evening. Following the initial tortured vocal section, the group soars off into a seriously heady jam that cooks with an energy most bands could only dream of, thanks in no small part to the fluid bass work of Oakley. Betts would soon begin emulating Duane's slide guitar techniques into his own playing quite successfully, but here he is still deeply immersed in his own early sound, with a tone that could be piercing and biting, yet equally fluid and emotive. Around the six-minute mark they briefly head into deep space, culminating in a sweet airy jam with plenty of sustained guitar notes from Betts, great Hammond B-3 work from Allman, and a rhythm section second to none. This continues to build in intensity, eventually leading back to the theme and final vocal from Gregg. Revealing of the mindset that kept the band going right up to the present day, he changes the final line of the lyric to say, "there ain't no such thing as dying."
When they return for an encore, the brilliant Texas guitarist, Johnny Winter, has joined the group on stage. Without further ado, they launch into Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." Although unrehearsed, the performance crackles with raw energy, featuring Winter on vocals and both he and Betts taking turns shredding on guitar. Although the second encore (a cover of Elmore James' "Dust My Broom") was unfortunately not captured due to the tape stock running out, what remains is a delightful example of likeminded musicians having a lot of fun just winging it for the sheer delight of playing together.