Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas

The Allman Brothers Band

Capricorn Records, 1976


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1976, The Allman Brothers Band existed only in people's memories. Disagreements over the musical direction the band should go in, compounded with founding member Gregg Allman's testimony against a member of the band's crew in a drug case, splintered the band like a balsa wood bridge under the weight of an 18-wheeler. The remaining members vowed never to work with Allman again, and it seemed like one of the most influential bands of the early '70s was history.

It's interesting, then, that Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas, a 1976 compilation of live tracks culled from concerts featuring the "Mark III" version of the band (that is, after the deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley), is such a powerful piece of work. Some hold this set up to At Fillmore East in comparison, and immediately turn their noses down at these tracks. In truth, this is unfair - after all, you're now competing with the ghost of Duane Allman, a battle that's just not worth staging.

Is this set perfect? No. Is it enjoyable? Very much so - something I don't think I'd have predicted after listeining to Brothers And Sisters and Win, Lose Or Draw prior to this album. (Once again, I'm working from vinyl - to be honest, I think I bought this 10 years ago, and this was the first time I ever listened to it. Funny how this job works.) For as musically unstable as the Allmans seemed after the deaths of Duane Allman and Oakley, this set proved their greatest strength was in concert.

One full album's worth of material is taken from a set performed at Winterland in 1973. One can almost understand why the whole show wasn't featured - if it was, it would have been the second live album recorded at one of Bill Graham's venues. But if either the Allmans or Polygram (whoever wins the battle for tapes that is in the courts right now) were wise, they'd put this whole show out soon, 'cause the energy is infectious. Sure, the live version of "Ramblin' Man" proves this has to be a song performed with two guitarists; Dickey Betts sounds naked without having a harmony guitar line echoing his parts. But when Gregg Allman and crew can breathe life into "Wasted Words" and "Southbound," you know something is going right. As for the latest version of "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed," purists will probably find something to piss and moan about, but I actually like some of the newer twists thrown into the song. Let's remember, this is a jazz-rock song, and jazz is a living being which is constantly evolving. So why shouldn't this song grow as the band grows?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The last three tracks, pulled from two dates in California late in 1975, show that even while the band was involved with so much infighting, they could still launch fireworks on stage. Daring to go back to their self-titled album with the two-fer of "Don't Want You No More" and "It's Not My Cross To Bear," Gregg Allman dares to suggest that the group was finally ready to shed the albatross that was the loss of two core members of the group. The live version of "Jessica" which closes this disc out dares to challenge the original studio version pound for pound with the energy the band pours into it. Interesting to note that Gregg Allman's organ lines help provide a second "guitar" line to Betts's lead - something I wouldn't have bet on after listening to "Ramblin' Man".

If all the tracks on Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas crackled with this much power, you could light all of California every time someone played this album. Sadly, this isn't the case. "Ain't Wastin' Time No More," pulled from a New Year's Eve 1972 gig in New Orleans, is almost mournful in delivery - not what the original on Eat A Peach was meant to be. The rendition of "Come And Go Blues" from Watkins Glen in 1973 isn't bad, but it really wasn't a strong song to begin with. In the band's defense, their take on "Can't Lose What You Never Had" (again from one of the 1975 California shows) does shake off the ghosts of the original they recorded on Win, Lose Or Draw.

If this live set does anything correctly, it highlights the work of bassist Lamar Williams, whose contributions always seemed to be buried in the mix. It's unfortunate that this turned out to be the final appearance by Williams with the Allmans on record; he was one of the few members who did not reunite with Allman in 1979, and died of Agent Orange-related cancer in1983.

Wipe The Windows… is an album that has undoubtedly been overlooked throughout the years, but is a disc that shows just how good the Allman Brothers Band was, even near the end of the first stage of their career. It did not, however, mark the complete end of the band; a few members decided to let bygones be bygones and re-formed the group with Gregg Allman, leading to their 1979 album Enlightened Rogues… but that's another review for another day.

Rating: B-

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capricorn Records, and is used for informational purposes only.