current listening: fourth at the fillmores

On July 4, 1971, the Fillmore West shut its doors after serving as the performance haven to a new rock ‘n’ roll generation for nearly six years. To mark the occasion, along with more traditional Fourth of July honors, The Musical Box used this rainy day to spin records that were cut at the Fillmore West in San Francisco and the sister Fillmore East in New York during their glory years. This is music that lets freedom ring and then some.

fillmore the last days+ Various artists – Fillmore: The Last Days (1972). A chronicle of a week’s worth of shows that led up to the closing of the Fillmore West. Today this stands, even with occasional excesses, as a capsule of a vibrant Bay Area scene that dictated the tone of a national psychedelic rock movement. It’s a Beautiful Day, Quicksilver, Tower of Power, Hot Tuna, the Grateful Dead and a ferocious young Santana highlight the farewell party.

jefferson airplane+ Jefferson Airplane – Bless Its Little Pointed Head (1969). Combining recordings from the heralded Fillmores East and West, Pointed Head presents the Airplane at the height of its flight with a full crew at the ready. Paul Kantner mans the trippy Fat Angel, Marty Balin ignites the funk of Plastic Fantastic Lover, Jorma Kaukonen rides the blues wave of Rock Me Baby and Grace Slick pilots the psychedelic meditation of Bear Melt.

aretha live at fillmore west+ Aretha Franklin: Live at Fillmore West (1971). The Queen of Soul’s landmark string of R&B hits began to subside at the dawn of the ‘70s. But her creative side hit a peak. With her underrated Spirit in the Dark album only a few months old, Franklin ceased being a jukebox, recruited soul music sax legend King Curtis and served up a string of Fillmore West shows that make up one of the most powerfully earthy records she ever issued.

miles davis+ Miles Davis – Black Beauty: Miles Davis at Fillmore West (1977). Cut in the spring of 1970 with a band that included an insanely eager Chick Corea on electric piano going toe to toe with Davis’ trumpet outbursts, Black Beauty was a testament to how diverse billings were at the Fillmores and how eager Davis was to reach the audiences that gathered there. Black Beauty was released in Japan in 1977 and not until 1997 in the U.S.

abb at fillmore east+ The Allman Brothers Band: The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East (1971). Few live albums defined an entire genre, much less a band, than Fillmore East did with the Allmans. Southern rock pretty much began and ended with this record, although the set is best enjoyed as a blues party. But it was a strangely fateful one. No sooner did the record catch fire in the summer of 1971 than guitarist Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash.

the mothers+ The Mothers – Fillmore East, June 1971 (1971). Cut at the height of Frank Zappa’s Mothers alliance with ex-Turtles Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, Fillmore was a true rock ‘n’ roll tent show that shifted from performance art extremes (especially in the vocals) to guitar mayhem and to jams of jazz-prog severity. The music was expertly tight even though the performance itself seemed so loose that it nearly imploded in on itself.

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