1971 LIVE [PART 2]

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends…

The second (and final) part of Vinyl Connection’s pick of 1971 live albums, counting up to #1!

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5  TRAFFIC—WELCOME TO THE CANTEEN

In terms of personnel, this is an ‘in between’ Traffic album. In fact it isn’t even credited to the band. In-again out-again Dave Mason was invited back for this contract completing effort, which does mean that two of his songs add to the variety on the LP. Although the playing is just fine, the recording (especially the vocals) is not of highest quality. Having said that, the two long work-outs, “Dear Mr Fantasy” and the Spencer Davis hit “Gimme Some Lovin’” are great, as is the weird and wonderful “40,000 Headmen”. Essential for fans of Traffic and Steve Winwood fans but probably a curiosity for others.

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4  GEORGE HARRISON & FRIENDS — CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH

In 1974, just three years after Bangladesh came into being as an independent nation, the small but populous country was hit by a major famine. While the new government admitted to 27,000 deaths, unofficial estimates put the total at 1.5 million. Causes were complicated but several factors stood out. Firstly, the war with Pakistan that ended in 1971. When army forces left, they dismantled or destroyed much infrastructure; the fledgling nation had few systems and an impoverished economy. Secondly, once the world knew about the human tragedy, not everyone behaved with compassion. The mighty USA used the promise of 2.2 million tons of food aid to bully Bangladesh into stopping its export of jute to Cuba, with whom America was still in dispute. Eventually the tiny nation caved, but for many displaced citizens, it was too late. A third factor was corruption at every level of a system still in its infancy. 

All that was still to come when, in 1971, George Harrison’s friend Ravi Shankar acquainted the ex-Beatle with the suffering that followed the armed conflict. George made some calls, made a plan, and organised two concerts at Madison Square Garden, New York, in early August. The story of the concert and the interminable wrangling of the record companies make fascinating (if depressing) reading, but the concerts happened, were recorded, and eventually released as a triple LP boxed set on the 20th of December after Harrison complained about Capitol’s recalcitrance (ie: greed) on the Dick Cavett show.

This rambling, scattergun recording has grown on me over the years. George was in fine form, riding high after the mighty (and mightily deserved) success of All Things Must Pass. Ringo joined him on stage, the first live Beatle pairing since they withdrew from touring in 1966. Bob Dylan played mind games until the last minute, but ultimately strolled on stage to do his bit with true legend intensity—his first US live appearance in five years. Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Klaus Voorman, Badfinger, and of course Ravi Shankar’s opening set… it was an exciting event and although it took several decades to get some decent sound, nothing can diminish the atmosphere of the concert or undercut George’s impassioned performance. Live recordings should be warts and all, whether it’s Ringo stumbling over the lyrics of “It don’t come easy” or some very dodgy mixes (hello Leon!); it’s all about the event, the record, the history. I love the early moment where Ravi and his ensemble are tuning up. The audience have been exhorted by both George and Shankar to be on their best behaviour; after the Indian instruments are tuned, the crowd applauds. Ravi, polite and smiling faintly, observes, “Thank you. If you appreciate the tuning so much, I hope you will enjoy the playing more”.

The musicians—big and small—waived all fees and income for the project and a sizeable cheque was eventually conveyed to UNICEF. It was the first large scale example of rock activism.

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3  EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER — PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

It may monster Mussorgsky, but EL&P’s live recording of their attack upon Pictures At An Exhibition is a prog rock tour de force. Keith Emerson was a man with a mission: he knew the source material and had a clear vision of what he wanted to do with it. Greg Lake’s voice was never better in concert and Carl Palmer laid down a powerhouse foundation. The film was, as I recall, the first rock concert movie I’d ever seen and (with the possible exception of Palmer’s interminable drum solo) I loved it. So did many others; the LP was (briefly) Top 10 in the UK and Top 20 in Australia.

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2  CURTIS MAYFIELD — CURTIS LIVE!

Can a concert be both laid back and intense? Because that is exactly what Curtis Mayfield delivers on this 2LP set recorded at The Bottom Line in New York, January 1971. The soul legend is in great form, hitting the high notes like a bell and emoting without ever seeming to raise a sweat. It’s mesmerising listening to a singer at the height of his powers, and with the vocals mixed way forward it is riveting—across fifty years, and a thousand imitators. Hearing Mayfield  deliver his own take on “People Get Ready”, the modern gospel classic he wrote, is almost enough to turn the head of a resolute unbeliever. Yes, there is a lot of spirituality here, but there is also plenty of grooving funk and a righteous fistful of civil rights overtones. It is, simply put, a terrific live album.

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1  ALLMAN BROTHERS — AT FILLMORE EAST

This live recording of The Allman Brothers Band at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East in New York has become something of an iconic recording, both for the band and for ‘In Concert’ albums generally. The original two record set involved some sneaky post-production by Tom Dowd, who trimmed some performances and merged material from different concerts to create 76 minutes of live excitement. The playing is great, with brothers Duane and Greg both shining. In particular, the almost telepathic connection between the musicians makes even the longest tracks—and two of them clock in at around 20 minutes—flow and dance through different shades and moods. Recognition from fans was swift as the album became the Allman’s first ‘hit’, while the music’s longevity is demonstrated by its 2004 selection for preservation by the Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” recording.

Of course, you can never have too much of a good thing. So no surprises that an expanded version appeared in 1992, adding an hour of extra music, including the epic “Mountain Jam”, half an hour of exploration and jamming based around Donovan’s totally zen, man, “There is a Mountain” from 1967. I believe there is even a six CD set of the entire set of concerts for those for whom too much is never enough. But re-issues aside, either the original or the 1992 expanded version a wonderful examples of just how marvellous The Allman Brothers Band could be in concert and indeed, how excellent live rock albums can be.

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36 comments

  1. […] NEXT: 1971 LIVE [PART TWO] […]

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  2. Evan Jenkins · · Reply

    Loved Concert for Bangladesh, one of my early purchases, it’s still in the collection.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Excellent. Was there more than the lavish booklet, Evan? I have a memory of a facsimile ticket am more-than-likely conflating Bangladesh with “Last Days of the Fillmore”, another live 3LP box!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Will you be purchasing the new remix of All Things Must Pass? I would love to get the uber deluxe version but it is beyond my (current) means. The first cut released, Run of the Mill (Take 36) is terrific. I hope the rest is as good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It looks rather wonderful, doesn’t it? But given the price tag, and the fact that I have three copies already (original Aussie vinyl, CD re-issue from early 2000s, box re-issue from a couple of years back) I think I may, just may, be able to do without it. Perhaps.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I just have the top two. I like how Mayfield coopts ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ into a civil rights anthem and I have vivid memories of removing asbestos while listening to the Allman Brothers album.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you were fully masked up for the asbestos task, Graham. We don’t want an instrumental lament entitled “In Memory of Aphoristical”. 😷

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup and had to set the album very loud on repeat so I could hear it in the cordoned off area.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Yeah that Allmans one was iconic for me in college, I graduated the year that Mountain Jam bit was released I guess. I enjoyed reading about the George Harrison show, I know of it but haven’t listened. Seems that triple record that precedes it fills me up plenty each time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh yeah, my friend. ATMP is right up there for me too.
      Have you ever compared the later (expanded) Fillmore Concerts “Mountain Jam” with the Eat A Peach version? That was my first, but I’ll not reveal the year/phase of study. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        I’ve not done that! But yes this is classic geekery, I love it…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Live jamming started right at “Live At Fillmore East”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now you have me thinking, hf63! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Bru. “Whippin ‘Post”, full 23 minutes, that sounds like the eroticism of a 1971 hi-fi studio system.

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        1. Spot on! Wonderfully put.

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  7. Here’s an idea for a concert that could be recorded and released as a live album: a performance of Pictures At An Exhibition at which each movement is played three times: first, by a pianist (many people don’t know that Mussorgsky originally wrote the work for solo piano); second by full orchestra (Ravel’s orchestration is most famous/popular); and last by Carl Palmer and any fellow musicians he chooses to replace his two deceased band mates! Love your take on the Concert for Bangladesh. As you know, I’m a huge fan of George; his activism (back when activism among the ‘rich and famous’ wasn’t as much of a thing as it is these days) is something I’ve always greatly admired him for. And lastly, very happy to see Curtis Mayfield make your list; he’s another favorite of mine. (I believe that album was recorded at the Bitter End, not the Bottom Line…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A triple threat of Pictures? Sounds amazing. Count me amongst the ignoranti who did not know Mussorgsky wrote it for piano.

      And thank you for the correction re Curtis’s venue. I’ll update the text right now. We certainly agree on George. John may have been the one you’d like to meet, but Harrison was the one you’d want to hang out with.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Here’s a nice performance, by Evgeny Kissin, of the Mussorgsky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH_Rsl7fjok

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That was most enjoyable. Thank you.
          And here’s a version (back at ya!) for when you need cheering up.

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  8. Surprised to see you leadoff with ‘Canteen’. Very cool. Dont see it get much ink. After ‘Hot Rats’ I was stuck in that ABB music for a few days. I guess I didn’t realize I hit the replay switch. Those are a pretty good bunch of records you have there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get stuck on the poor sound quality of ‘Canteen’, CB. But when I set my ear-expectations to ‘low’, it was fun.
      It is a great list of live albums, for sure.

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      1. I remember when I got it I was just happy for some more Traffic. Im pretty “low-fi” Bruce. Im still amazed that I get music out of any kind of device.
        Yeah great bunch. Keep them coming

        Liked by 1 person

  9. One of the reasons that Pictures At An Exhibition was a hit may be that it was the first release on Island’s budget label (which they called HELP). I can’t recall exactly how cheap they were in comparison to regular releases but they were a bargain at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting, Paul. A kind of ‘loss leader’ thing a bit like the famous ‘Faust Tapes’ on Virgin. We could use some vinyl price dropping in 2021, I reckon!

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  10. Another great set Bruce – I own 1 and 2 and they are just wonderful exemplars. So many ‘live’ LPs got at least a bit of a tweaking back then, I find that fascinating – especially the more macho rockers. UFO released a couple of versions of tracks recorded live in the studio for their classic live LP ‘Strangers In The Night’ – the first big 70’s rockers to effectively admit sharp practice in that respect. Judas Priest ‘Unleashed In The East’ and Thin Lizzy ‘Live & Dangerous’ are both famously dodgy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess that, er, tweaking is one way of ensuring more consistent quality, particularly from an era where both equipment and live recording knowhow were less reliable. For earlier recordings, I guess we’re trying to get our heads into that ‘It’s an historical document’ space!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t mind it at all, a live LP is only ever a simulacrum of a gig after all – it’s just there was a real macho, ‘we’re beasts live’ ethos about 70’s rock live LPs and it is quite fun to see that pomposity pricked a little.

        Not that I like live LPs, mind you …

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was going to mention that, but thought it would be rude.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’ll get a producer in to punch up the chorus and add live audience howling to your comment.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. As you should. Our convo has reminded me of a cheap Little Richard double I had years ago where they’d added audience reactions from clearly divergent sources. One sounded like a mid-sized club and the other The Beatles at Shea Stadium. I’m sure you’ll be much more subtle.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Yes, although a careful listener would wonder why the audience were chanting ‘Angus!! Angus!!’ at you.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Better that than “Bon, Bon!” don’t you think?

              Liked by 1 person

            4. (smiley emoji thingy, like the kids use)

              Liked by 1 person

  11. I actually own a couple of these! (Traffic, Concert For Bangladesh, and the Matfield may be lurking here somewhere too). Cool beans, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice, Aaron. Some heavy hitters in that group. 🙂

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      1. And even more in your collection!

        Liked by 1 person

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