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Album Review

Allman Brothers Band: Syria Mosque Pittsburgh, PA January 17, 1971

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Allman Brothers Band: Syria Mosque Pittsburgh, PA January 17, 1971
On the surface, The Allman Brothers Band's Syria Mosque Pittsburgh, PA January 17, 1971, would appear to be just another in a long line of live releases featuring the original six-man lineup of the archetypal Southern blues-rockers. It is, however, markedly superior on many fronts.

Granted, this title hardly renders obsolete ABB's seminal concert release At Fillmore East (Capricorn, 1971). And while the audience recording that is The Final Note (ABBRC, 2020) does not compare favorably to that title either—it is an audience recording—the set is nevertheless important in historical terms as the last concert founder/guitarist Duane Allman played with the Brothers before his death. Fillmore West '71 (ABBRC, 2019) ostensibly fills in similar holes in early Allman Brothers' recording and performing history too. But its erratic sound quality and egregious gaps in annotation regarding the dates of those shows correspond to a marked lack of rigor in the credits. The current keepers of the Allmans archive do not do justice to the band with such releases.

In contrast, the official issue of this recording from the Iron City concert hall, long in circulation as a bootleg, clarifies confusion about the two separate dates the Allmans played at the venue some months apart. And while there are a couple of lapses in what are otherwise fairly clear sonics, those instances do not undermine the consistently powerful playing that inspired its release in such stylish physical form.

That said, the narrowly-circumscribed repertoire the Brothers maintained during this period may limit the appeal of the title. To wit, this setlist isn't markedly different than its predecessors or the bonafide classic live release that constituted a breakthrough for the Allman Brothers Band; it is all familiar, from the signature show opener of "Statesboro Blues"— a tacit homage to opener Taj Mahal from whose recording of the tune Duane learned the slide technique—to the frenetic closing of "Whipping Post."

Still, there are some revelatory moments. the likes of which could conceivably bring additional aficionados into the fold. For example, the fifteen-minute "You Don't Love Me" is more focused and to the point than some previously-released versions, yet it still allows for an expanded finale full of teases like those at the end of "Mountain Jam" on Eat A Peach (Capricorn, 1972).

The menacing take on blues icon Muddy Waters' "Trouble No More" also supplies a foundation for the pacing of the approximately one-hour show by dint of its early appearance in the seven tune setlist. It is one of the shorter performances here, along with another Allman original, "Midnight Rider." In addition, the comparatively streamlined rendition of guitarist Dickey Betts' "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," reminds us how the rhythmic changes of this instrumental spurred the sextet to heights of intense ingenuity.

Unfortunately, it is marred by the occasional out-of-balance mix of Berry Oakley's bass as well as overly-upfront Hammond organ that camouflages much of the lead guitar interplay. The absence of "Stormy Monday" may also seem a crucial liability for this title, especially as this spotlight for lead vocalist Gregg Allman is one of the high points of a recording from eight months later in the form of Live From A&R Studios (ABBRC, 2016).

But the younger Allman sibling brings a swagger to his singing on "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" which is right in line with the rest of the ensemble, even if the prominent drums interfere with his singing. Jaimoe and Butch Trucks' dual percussion work should have been more clearly and evenly delineated throughout this hour or so performance: the lack of detail begs the question of who exactly recorded this concert— no name is given in the credits—as well as what improvements mastering engineer Jason NeSmith might have applied had he been able to remix the sound.

Those shortfalls are moot, however, by the time the show concludes at a furious pace. Essayist John Lynskey hardly illuminates those dynamics with his less-than-insightful prose opposite the colorful mushroom logo on the front cover of Syria Mosque Pittsburgh, PA January 17, 1971. Perhaps some of the text could have been replaced with more action shots of the Allman Brothers on stage. Had that been the case, then the graphic design of this package would almost fully mirror the vibrancy of the musicianship in encloses.

Track Listing

Statesboro Blues; Trouble No More; Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’; In Memory of Elizabeth Reed; Midnight Rider; You Don’t Love Me; Whipping Post.

Personnel

Allman Brothers Band: band/orchestra; Duane Allman: guitar; Gregg Allman: organ, Hammond B3; Dickey Betts: guitar, electric; Berry Oakley: bass, electric; Butch Trucks: drums; Jaimoe: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Gregg Allman: vocals, piano; Duane Allman: slide guitar; Butch Trucks: tympani; Jai Johanny Johanson: percussion.

Album information

Title: Syria Mosque Pittsburgh, PA January 17, 1971 | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company

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