Album Review: THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND – Brothers And Sisters

Allman Brothers Band - Brothers And Sisters

Capricorn Records

Although ‘Eat A Peach’ was released after the tragic death of supremely talented guitarist, Duane Allman in 1971, ‘Brothers and Sisters’ was the first Allman Brothers Band collection without any contributions from him at all.

The twin lead guitar playing between Allman and Dickey Betts was such a defining feature of their sound that it must have been difficult to contemplate an album of entirely new material without their founder, leader and visionary.

And yet, the remaining members, led by Betts and Greg Allman on vocals and keyboards, pulled it off. ‘Brother and Sisters’ retains intact the classic mellow, easy blues-rock vibe of the band at its best. Indeed the album, their fifth release, became the band’s biggest seller up to that point.

The album is a triumph of subtle vocals and understated rhythms building a platform for magnificent, telepathic keyboard and guitar jams. Betts here sounds as fluid as ever. Crystal clear picking and flowing melodies on tracks that went on to become classics like ‘Ramblin’ Man’ and ‘Jessica’. Such constructions are the very bedrock of their legend.

Of course there is none of the stunning, spine tingling lick-trading between Betts and Allman’s slide/lead that particularly characterised their live shows. However, the band still find that same groove.

Only here, Betts is harmonizing with Greg’s delicious organ – is there a finer example anywhere than on ‘Jessica’? -  and also with the understated vocal melodies, for instance, on ‘Wasted Words’. There are some clever uses of overdubs so that Betts interchanges guitar lines with himself too – witness the thrilling climax to ‘Ramblin’ Man’.

The album contains a couple of less well-known tracks that amply display the band’s solid pedigree. ‘Jelly Jelly’ is a blues crawler the features a jaw-dropping keyboard break and smouldering guitarwork. ‘Pony Boy’ is a delightful Delta blues mash that finds an irresistible niche, right down to the thigh slapping outro.

2013 sees the 40th anniversary of the original release, prompting this full-on re-master available in multiple formats with a sliding scale of bonus offerings. Some of that material is distinctly iffy and must surely appeal only to the completist or purist.

The deluxe two-CD package features a range of outtakes and rehearsals all of which is previously unreleased. And maybe it should have stayed that way. Only the ‘A Minor Jam’ discovery really represents anything new or interesting.

At the top of the range, a super-deluxe 4-cd monster contains all the above, plus a complete recording of the band’s 1973 Winterland, San Francisco gig. The live show is a lovely thing. A real gem. But collectors should note that half-a-dozen of the tracks are available elsewhere, including the stunning ‘One Way Out’. Some of the standards don’t match up to ‘At Fillmore East’, inevitably.

But if you simply stuck to the remastered CD or vinyl version of this great seven-track classic you will not go wrong.  ****½

Dave Atkinson

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