The original Allman Brothers were gone and never to return. They had produced some of the best southern rock and blues in music history. I knew at the time, they would be missed. The reconstituted Allman Brothers were a surprise as they produced an excellent, if different sounding, album. It may be The Allman Brothers album that I have listened to the most times down through the years.
Duane Allman had been dead for about a year. Two tracks into the recording process, bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident about three blocks from Duane’s. The four remaining members decided to forge ahead. Vocalist/keyboardist Gregg Allman, lead guitarist Richard Betts, drummers Jaimoe Johanson and Butch Trucks recruited pianist Chuck Leavell and bassist Lamar Williams as the new members. The big change was the addition of Leavell which gave the band two keyboardists instead of two guitarists. Having said that, Les Dudek was used a session guitarist on two tracks. He proved to be a perfect foil for Betts.
Brothers and Sisters may be Richard (or Dickey) Betts finest work. He wrote four of the seven tracks, two of which would be memorable. He also stepped forward and provided lead guitar work that would have made Duane Allman proud.
The Allman Brothers were, and are, primarily an album oriented band. Their releases have sold tens of millions of copies. “Ramblin’ Man,” however, was one of the classic singles of the 1970’s and still receives considerable airplay. It would be a huge hit reaching number 2 on The American Singles Chart. It was a tightly constructed song and formed a self-contained unit. It was not open to much improvisation when played live. Betts lead guitar work will make you ache in a good way. This is one of the tracks that Les Dudek provides the essential second guitar sound. The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame would name it as one of The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock ‘N’ Roll.
His other eternal track was “Jessica,” which was named for his daughter. The seven minute instrumental again featured Dudek as the second guitarist, and he matched well with Betts. The piano of Leavell and organ of Gregg Allman combine to give the sound a unique foundation.
Betts other two compositions may not have been of the caliber of the first two, but they were still very good. “Southbound” was the perfect song for a Gregg Allman vocal and Betts wisely lets him provide it. “Pony Boy” was a nice country sounding rock tune.
Gregg Allman contributed two tracks. “Wasted Words” contains a bluesy vocal plus some tasty slide guitar by Betts. “Come and Go Blues” has a nice soulful appeal.
The only average track was the Trade Martin composition, “Jelly Jelly.” The band gives it a traditional and competent blues work-out.
Brothers and Sisters would usher in the second phase of The Allman Brothers career. They would continue to produce good music, but very few albums as consistently excellent as this one.
Article first published as Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Brothers and Sisters on Blogcritics.