How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The swagger that distinguished the original lineup of The Allman Brothers Band is on full display here in "Don't Keep Me Wondering," but a comparable confidence permeates this entire performance captured roughly two months before the untimely death of founding member guitarist Duane Allman. Recorded August 26th 1971 at New York's A&R Studios (and broadcast live on WPLJ-FM radio), the sextet is clearly sensing the realization their hard work was beginning to come to fruition with the burgeoning success of At Fillmore East (Atlantic, 1971) released the previous month.
Comprised of a setlist not all that different than that which comprises the iconic concert album, the musicianship here is also of a comparably high level of inspiration. Duane sets the tone with fiery, abandoned slide playing the likes of which illuminates "Statesboro Blues" and "Trouble No More," yet the rest of The Brothers are not far behind in their contributions of subtlety: guitarist Dickey Betts, in fact, almost steals the show from his counterpart on "You Don't Love Me (even given Skydog's heartrending tribute to King Curtis on the "Soul Serenade" interpolation).
Gregg Allman's rich soulful vocals, such as on "Stormy Monday," radiate an intensity equal to the improvisations, his work on Hammond organ bespeaks a confidence he shares with his bandmates and his piano work on "Done Somebody Wrong" injects a barrelhouse flavor into the arrangement not always so prevalent in other versions of the tune. And The Allman Brothers' ability to find nuances in such tried and true material such as that and "One Way Out," is one of their most distinctive collective virtues.
Berry Oakley stepped into the void of the elder Allman's presence in the year before the bassist himself died in a motorcycle accident eerily similar to his comrade's, and A&R Studios illustrates how much he lent to the integrity of the original ABB lineup. Equally melodious and rhythmic instrumental lines underpin each successive segment of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," and it's the low rumble of the bass on the uncommon closer "Hot 'Lanta," that imparts so much drama to its concluding crescendo.
The sound quality on this CD varies slightly at the start, perhaps not surprisingly as the engineers dial in an appropriate balance. And even though the overall mix is slightly muffled in the low registers, the stereo separation is superior to some of the officially sanctioned archive ABB releases. More importantly, the precision, passion and spontaneity in the musicianship is at least on par and may, in fact, be a cut above that of the closing Fillmore set on the 'Deluxe Edition' of Eat A Peach (Universal, 2006). A&R Studios New York 26th August 1971 is a must have for fans of The Allman Brothers Band and anyone else who relishes improvisational rock of the highest order.
Track Listing: Statesboro Blues; Trouble No More; Don't Keep Me Wonderin'; Done Somebody Wrong;
One Way Out; In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed; Stormy Monday; You Don't Love Me/Soul
Serenade; Band Intros; Hot 'lanta.
Personnel: Gregg Allman: vocals, organ; piano; Duane Allman: slide guitar, lead guitar; Dickey Betts:
lead guitar, rhythm guitar; Berry Oakley: bass; Butch Trucks: drums; Jai Johanny “Jaimoe”