Review Summary: In an age before jam rock was marred by hippies and Jessica was a well-known song without the aid of Guitar Hero…
For fans of jam bands – I know you exist, despite the slack you may have received – The Allman Brothers Band
showcased a less hippy-side of things, instead infusing their rock with tinges of country and laden with blues melodies. Their numbers also ranged from slower, more emotional pieces to borderline funk jams. Unfortunately for this highly influential unit, amid their rise to success (isn’t that always the way) they experienced the catastrophic loss of two of their core members. Two separate motorcycle accidents would claim the lives of lead guitarist and top guitarist list favourite Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley. Somehow, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of a purging fire, the band was able to carry on to a commercial peak with 1973’s Brothers and Sisters
With a pretty big load to shoulder after the loss of his first lead guitarist, Dickey Betts, originally the bands second lead/rhythm player carried on as the Allman Brothers only guitar player. Fans still reeling from the void left by Allman didn’t initially receive him as warmly, but his work would come to speak for itself. Two of the album’s tracks that would go on to become both fan staples as well as essential classic rock songs – Ramblin’ Man
and the instrumental Jessica
– would be penned by Betts, along with two others of the album’s seven tracks. Though not as gifted as his predecessor, Betts does little to disappoint on Brothers and Sisters, and helps to propel the band through their next phase of development.
The disc’s tempo is a rather light-hearted one, considering all the band had gone through leading up the point of recording (though bassist Berry Oakley was around for a part of the recording sessions before his death). Wasted Words
is probably one of the more funk-laden Allman grooves in their catalogue, making for an upbeat introduction to Brothers and Sisters. Ramblin’ Man
is probably one of those tracks just about everyone’s heard a dozen times or more, and should be easily recognisable to classic rock fans. Though the track initially annoyed me and comes off with a somewhat hillbilly sound, it takes a technically proficient turn. Multiple listens reveal a few subtle layers to the track that the radio may not yield. The extending soloing from Betts does tend to drag on a little, but there is enough improvisation in his playing to keep the listener from nodding off mid-track. The record starts to take a slower turn after this, perhaps even a little more introspective. Still, nothing gets too serious here, leaving the moody stuff behind for an upbeat twang. Come and Go Blues
falls into the above category, and though its pace causes a slight crawl in the beginning, the song is saved by some beautiful instrumental work in the latter half. Jelly Jelly
follows suit, though it’s probably the most lack-lustre song on the record. Still, like a shining ray of light, the uplifting instrumental Jessica
brings the tempo of the record back up to speed. Despite its recent repetitions, there’s little denying this gem, inspired by Betts’ daughter and another testament of his talents. Brothers and Sisters closer makes for a quite suitable one, heavily showcasing the band’s southern roots, while an abundance of neat little fills and a steady, slow gallop temp play off them nicely.
There’s little doubt that this album’s age has kept it under the radar with some fans, and that the jam aspect of the music has driven off potential listeners without really giving the sound a chance. For whatever reason it may have flown under your radar, check it out now. Let this one unwind over the course of several plays – it really isn’t that long a record, and it goes down pretty smooth. The Allman Brothers Band’s
ability and willingness to overcome and flow with transitions is a testament to their skill and the acclaim they’ve accumulated over the last few decades.