The Allman Brothers Band – Play All Night: Live At The Beacon Theatre 1992

Epic/Legacy Recordings

Epic/Legacy Recordings

If it hadn’t already been used for a 1994 studio album, the phrase “Back Where It All Begins” would have been an apropos subtitle for The Allman Brothers’ new archival release Play All Night. The band’s annual multi-night runs at NYC’s Beacon Theatre over the last 20-plus years have seen some of the modern-day ABB lineups’ most inspired playing. And Play All Night takes us back to the Allman Brothers’ very first stand there, back in March of 1992.

The Beacon runs have often featured some surprise guests, but for the performances captured on Play All Night there were none – nor were they needed. (Harpman Thom Doucette sat in, but he was as much a Brother as one could be without actually being one since the band’s early days.) The gold to be found in this 2-CD set is the presence of guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes and the late Allen Woody on bass.

Fans will forevermore debate the best ABB lineup in the decades since the deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley in 1971 and 1972, respectively. Different combinations of instruments and personalities made for different dynamics and vibes – some too different to be compared, perhaps. It seems apparent, however, that nobody came as close to Duane Allman’s ability to fly wingtip-to-wingtip with Dickey Betts as Warren Haynes did. There are numerous moments on Play All Night where Haynes is obliged to offer up key phrases that were originally birthed by Duane’s heart, hands, Les Paul, and Coricidin bottle slide – the opening wails of “Statesboro Blues” or the mist-wrapped moans of “Dreams” for instance – but he truly does manage to stand his own ground, as well. The interplay between he and Betts feels healthy and vibrant – the challenges fueled by the excitement of the moment, rather than ego or attitude. Haynes’ tone is sharp, while Betts’ is rounder; the passages of dual-guitar harmonies benefit from the contrast and the result is both fierce and lovely. And when they take turns making their own musical statements, there’s still interaction apparent rather than just empty comping during another player’s solo.

Click here to listen to “Whipping Post” from Play All Night

Allen Woody, meanwhile, pulls off the feat of somehow channeling Berry Oakley without mimicking him. He captures Oakley’s wallop and “lead bass” style, but keeps it fresh and unpredictable … as if Oakley had never taken that motorcycle ride in November of ’72 and had 20 years of maturity under his belt. Again, as in the case of Haynes, there are signature bass licks that must be played (is there any other way to righteously launch “Whipping Post”?) but Woody ventures beyond those time and time again, injecting Oakley’s presence into right-now jam situations during old classics – not to mention songs that were written after his death. For sure, his style is aggressive – but it’s never distracting.

Keep it going: click right here to read the conclusion of my review of Play All Night on Jambands.com

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