1971 Allman Brothers bootleg restored: ‘Syria Mosque’

The Allman Brothers Band’s show at a fabled Pittsburgh venue, “Syria Mosque” sounds remarkably punchy.

No band played the blues like The Allman Brothers Band did from their 1969 inception to Duane Allman’s untimely death just 22 months later at age 24. Quick rips here through Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” and Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” prove it. Innate reverence, wicked virtuosity and inventiveness, and Southern soul intertwined and burst forth in completely new ways through them, a confluence of qualities that will forever remain uniquely the Allman Brothers.’ On Gregg Allman’s own, now equally iconic song “Whipping Post,” they created massive art out of Duane Allman’s vision to collide blues music headfirst into rock and roll, but with an improvisational flair akin to that of highly talented, devoted jazzmen. Duane Allman and Dickey Betts wove dissimilar guitar excellence into exceptional patterns. Bassist Berry Oakley, and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, played with equal measures of swing and locomotive drive. Gregg Allman sang Willie Cobbs’ “You Don’t Love Me” in a moan and a wail that all these years later remains undeniable.

Meticulously restored by famed audio expert Bill Levenson and Allman Brothers confidants Bert Holman, Kirk West and John Lynskey, this long-coveted bootleg of The Allman Brothers Band’s show at the curiously named, fabled Pittsburgh venue, “Syria Mosque” sounds remarkably punchy. The rhythmic intricacies are clear as a bell, albeit a scuffed-up one. Negligible glitches unavoidable in an historic recording of this nature do nothing to diminish the appeal of these fantastic excursions in blues and musicality. Dickey Betts’ instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” shimmers in potent expression, and it elicits a thought: How wonderful would it have been if Miles Davis jammed with these young southerners at some point? The Allman Brothers Band was that good.

At Fillmore East remains the definitive Allman Brothers live recording from this era. But of the 13 albums now available documenting their performances, “Syria Mosque” lands in the top half for overall quality. The Allman Brothers Band only subtly adjusted their concert set lists during this initial crucial time, but never have they adjusted — except through the occasional fog of drugs in the latter days — their commitment to musical improvisation and superiority no matter how many times they played the same song.     

-Tom Clarke

The Allman Brothers Band
‘Syria Mosque — Pittsburgh, PA January 17, 1971’
Label: Allman Brothers Band Recording Company
Release: Oct. 28, 2022

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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