In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
|"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed"|
|Song by The Allman Brothers Band from the album At Fillmore East|
|Recorded||March 12–March 13, 1971, Fillmore East, New York City|
|Genre||Jazz fusion, instrumental rock, jam rock|
|At Fillmore East track listing|
"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" is a jazz-influenced instrumental composed by Dickey Betts recorded by The Allman Brothers Band. Multiple versions have been recorded, notably the original studio version from Idlewild South and an extended version on their 1971 live album At Fillmore East.
The original studio recording of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" is the fourth track on the group's 1970 album Idlewild South. Composed by Dickey Betts, it is the first instrumental written by a bandmember, and the first of several that Betts would write and become known for. The original Rolling Stone review of Idlewild South said the song "just goes and goes for a stupendous, and unnoticed, seven minutes."
The song is named after a headstone Betts saw at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, a place frequented by band members in their early days to relax and write songs. Considerable legend has developed about what Betts was doing at the time, some originated by a possibly put-on interview Duane Allman gave Rolling Stone. The cemetery was later memorialized by the band as the final resting spot of both band leader Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley.
The Rolling Stone Album Guide called "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" in its original studio incarnation "the blueprint of a concert warhorse, capturing the Allmans at their most adventurous." The New York Times has written that "its written riffs and jazz-ish harmonies [allow] improvisers room." Accordingly, "Elizabeth Reed" has appeared in many Allman Brothers concerts, sometimes running half an hour or more, and on numerous Allman Brothers live albums, but first and most notably on At Fillmore East, which many fans and critics believe is the definitive rendition. In 2007, Rolling Stone named "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" one of its Fifty Best Songs Over Seven Minutes Long – and in giving it Honorable Mention on its 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time list made 2008, Rolling Stone called the At Fillmore East performance "transcendent".
Fillmore East recording
In this performance, taken from the March 13, 1971 (first show) concert by the group, Betts opens the song with ethereal volume swells on his guitar, giving the aural impression of violins. Slowly the first theme begins to emerge, Duane Allman's guitar joining Betts in a dual lead that variously doubles the melody, provides a harmony line, or provides counterpoint. The tempo then picks up in the next section to a Santana-like, quasi-Latin beat, a strong second-theme melody driven by unison playing and harmonized guitars arising.
Betts next solos from the start of the second theme. This leads into an organ solo from Gregg Allman, with the two guitars playing rhythm figures in the background. Throughout, percussionists Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson play in unison, laying what has been described as "a thick bed of ride-snare rhythm for the soloists to luxuriate upon."
Duane Allman then starts quietly rephrasing the first theme, gradually building to a high-pitched climax, Berry Oakley's bass guitar playing a strong counterpoint against the band's trademark percussion. Allman cools into a reverie, then starts again, finding an even more furious peak. Parts of this solo would draw comparison to John Coltrane and his sheets of sound, other parts to Miles Davis' classic Kind of Blue album. Duane Allman biographer Randy Poe wrote that "[Allman]'s playing jazz in a rock context" reflected the emerging jazz fusion movement, only in reverse. Allman himself told writer Robert Palmer at that time, "that kind of playing comes from Miles and Coltrane, and particularly Kind of Blue. I've listened to that album so many times that for the past couple of years, I haven't hardly listened to anything else." Almost two decades later, Palmer would write of the Allmans, "that if the musicians hadn't quite scaled Coltrane-like heights, they had come as close as any rock band was likely to get." Rolling Stone would say in 2002 that the song's performance found the musicians "lock[ed] together ... with the grace and passion of the tightest jazz musicians," while in 2008, it said the trills, crawls, and sustain of the guitar work represented "the language of jazz charged with electric R&B futurism."
Following the Duane Allman solo the band drops off to a relatively brief but to-the-point percussion break by Trucks and Johanson reflecting Kind of Blue drummer Jimmy Cobb's work. The full band then enters to recap the mid-tempo second theme, finishing the song abruptly. Several silent beats pass before the Fillmore audience erupts in riotous applause.
Some selections on the original 1971 At Fillmore East were edited by producer Tom Dowd for conciseness or other reasons. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, however, was not edited on that album, and was a recording of a single performance of the song.
The clearest example of Tom Dowd's approach to the project comes in the 13 minute version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" that is pieced together from multiple takes, one of them being the March 13th (first show) version that appeared on the original album. The band played the song three times during its Fillmore stand. "One of them I hated," Dowd says, "but two of them were fantastic!" Dowd and mixer Jay Mark mixed down those two versions and proceeded to, as Dowd puts it, "take this song apart. I came to the conclusion that in the first half of the song, up to Duane's solo, I had a better band performance and Dickey Betts solo on the version that we had not used before. Starting with Duane's solo, though, it's the original version. Twenty-one years later, I know 'Liz Reed' as well as I know any song, certainly more than I did in that time of instant decisions. Putting the two versions together showed off the song best. Listen to it! Listen to the togetherness of Dickey, Duane, and Gregg on the theme lines, and how Butch and Jaimoe adjust to the changes up front. There's much more exciting interplay now, more like the band sounded those nights."
Bruce Eder's Allmusic review of this album states: "It is also a slightly less honest release [than the original], where 'In Memory of Elizabeth Reed' is concerned — Dowd edited the version here together from two different performances, first and second shows, the dividing line being where Duane Allman's solo comes in." C. Michael Bailey of All About Jazz also states that the 1992 The Fillmore Concerts represented "digital editing" combining multiple takes of "Elizabeth Reed" onto one track. Dave Lynch of Allmusic later said that of the 1992 editing, that "Duane's 'Liz Reed' solo, although from the same take used on At Fillmore East, is mixed lower than on the version listeners first heard in 1971 — as a result, the power and beauty of the solo doesn't stand out quite as effectively."
When yet another release, the 2003 At Fillmore East [Deluxe Edition] came out, the 1992 changes were undone, and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" was restored to the 1971 mix and once again unedited.
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- Elizabeth Reed on Find A Grave