The Allman Brothers Band: Brothers And Sisters - Album Of The Week Club review

Recorded after the tragic deaths of two band members, Brothers And Sisters found The Allman Brothers Band striving for unity and renewal

The Allman Bothers Band - Brothers And Sisters
The Allman Bothers Band - Brothers And Sisters

Wasted Words
Ramblin' Man
Come and Go Blues
Jelly Jelly
Southbound
Jessica
Pony Boy

By the time they released Brothers And Sisters in 1973, The Allman Brothers Band had already lost lead guitarist Duane Allman in a motorbike accident, and had established themselves as the premier jam band with 1971’s epic Live At Filmore East

Brothers… contained two of the band’s best known shorter tunes in Jessica, (aka The Theme To Top Gear), and the classic Ramblin’ Man, whose chiming twin guitar harmonies and country-esque vocals sent it to No.2 in the US chart and made it the most recognisable of all the band’s songs.

Ramblin’ Man was written by Allmans guitarist Dicky Betts, who had hoped to sell the tune in Nashville, but any plans for a songwriting sideline were dashed when the Allmans needed material for Brothers And Sisters.

“The song, as I originally wrote it, had a country flavour and needed to be ‘Allmanised’ – given that rock-blues feeling,” Betts told the Wall Street Journal. The band tried to disguise the tune’s country leanings with some twin-guitar duelling, but the result was an unmistakable truck driver’s lament.

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Background

Duane Allman’s death in a motorcycle accident midway through the recording of 1972’s Eat A Peach didn’t stop it from becoming a hit, but bassist Berry Oakley fell into depression and also lost his life in a motorbike crash in 1972. 

Oakley crashed his own motorbike into an oncoming bus, just three blocks away from where Duane had been hit. He could have survived had he gone straight to hospital, but he didn’t. He died that same day.

The band regrouped with a new line-up to record Brothers And Sisters a well-crafted album glistening with warm, mid-70s production. The songs stand up to this day, although the country influences were beginning to outweigh the blues, and it can't have helped that during the making of the album, Gregg Allman would sneak away to a neighbouring studio to work on a batch of songs that didn’t quite fit the band. The result, Laid Back, was Gregg’s private eulogy for Duane.

Other albums released in August 1973

  • (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) - Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Goats Head Soup - The Rolling Stones
  • Boulders - Roy Wood
  • Deliver the Word - War
  • Future Days - Can
  • Hard Nose the Highway - Van Morrison
  • Legend - Henry Cow
  • No Sweat - Blood, Sweat & Tears
  • Unlucky Boy - Chicken Shack
  • Valley Hi - Ian Matthews
  • Volcanic Rock - Buffalo
  • Yeah! - Brownsville Station

What they said...

"The nice thing about the Allmans is that when they put two five-year-olds on the cover we know it's not some "decadent" joke. Gregg Allman is a predictable singer who never has an unpredictable lyric to work with anyway, and the jams do roll on, but at their best – Ramblin' Man, a miraculous revitalisation of rock's earliest conceit – they just may be the best, and on this album Dickey Betts's melodious spirituality provides unity and renewal." (Robert Christgau

"Let's face it, the Allman Brothers play as if their lives depend on it; the spirit of their music lies in its urgency. Lately, drummer Butch Trucks was in a car accident. By some miracle he was not severely hurt and managed to get back to work in just a few weeks' time, but the question is: how much longer will this go on?" (Circus)

"Brothers and Sisters is no masterpiece, but the new band has shown that it can carry on the work of the old, and add the appropriate new twists when necessary. They've finally discovered a form that feels as natural in the studio as it does in front of their people. It's heartening to see a group of this commercial and critical stature still working so hard at getting even better. But I guess that's what you'd expect from the Allman Brothers Band." (Rolling Stone)

What you said...

Bob Hentrich: Of all the rock songs in the world, Ramblin Man is one of my absolute favourites. And whenever I need to be uplifted and restored to a happy feeling - Jessica never fails. Absolutely incredible album.

Russ Oliver: A testament to the oft underrated genre of Southern Rock, this album is a beautiful representation of that smokey, bluesy, jazzy low country sound the Allman Brothers excelled at. Ramblin’ Man is the perfect ‘crank it up’ highway tune, and Jessica is as quality an instrumental as you’ll find anywhere. Just jazzy enough with Come And Go Blues, this one has it all. Extraordinary album.

Tom O'Brien: The addition of Chuck Leavell to the band was a stroke of genius. He filled the void (as if that were possible) left by Duane and gave Dickie someone to play off of like he didn't with Gregg. His playing on Jessica is just sublime. Still listen to this from start to finish after all these years. Besides the original configuration, this is my favourite incarnation of the band.

Michael Piwowarski: Brothers and Sisters is a shining example of a band springing back into action after suffering a tragedy. In this case, the Allman Brothers Band had already decided they weren't Wastin' Time No More when they finished the previous album Eat A Peach. Follow-up album Brothers And Sisters turned out to be one of their best-selling albums of all time, featuring their signature song Ramblin' Man as well as fan favourites like Wasted Words and Jessica. I think it's amazing that they managed to pull through after losing Duane Allman, even rolling out their most well remembered song at that time.

Philip Qvist: At Filmore East may be the definitive album from The Allman Brothers Band - but their first five albums are all classic, and Brothers And Sisters is no exception. 

Considering what the band went through beforehand, this record is an absolute triumph - and Dickie Betts was the hero of the hour.

Ramblin Man, Jessica and Wasted Words et al - all killer, no filler.

Sadly this is where the band hit its peak as drugs, prison, drink and divorces all took its toll - but what a way to peak.

A Classic

Mike Knoop: I know Ramblin' Man and Jessica from countless radio plays, and, unlike other classic rock chestnuts, neither has worn out their welcome. In fact, they're still head-bobbin' and toe-tappin' amazing. The rest of the album is new to me and I like it from start to finish. Gregg Allman's warm, easygoing vocals remind me of mid-period Dr. John. The musicianship is incredible throughout, but especially on the two hits, Southbound and new favourite "Pony Boy."

Carl Black: I do enjoy a bit of southern rock. Its a type of music I don't listen to enough. I was looking forward to getting the bourbon out, kicking back and listening to some southern fried jams. And that's what I got. I'm no expert on southern rock but I do like a low down and dirty guitar sound when I'm listening to this type of music. I didn't get that here. I got a very polished sound. I like lots of slide guitar. I got lots of Joanna. I like the singer to be in gutter looking out for another shot of Jack. I got a clean as a whistle vocals, slipping lemon and honey tea. As a standalone album I enjoyed it. Just not raw enough. And then the theme from Top Gear. That confused me. However that was the best one on the album. That took me away.

Shane Reho: On their first full album without Duane (only the first side of Eat A Peach was recorded after his accident) and first without Berry Oakley, the remaining members show that they still have the ability to make great music. Dickey Betts proves a strong lead man, as would be expected from hearing his interplay with Duane on earlier albums, and Gregg Allman is as good as ever. 

The only problem I have with this album is Pony Boy, which is cringeworthy compared to the rest of this. They would've done a lot better had Jessica ended the album. Overall, I would have no problem buying this album after I get the first two, which are both better than this (I already have Fillmore and Peach), but I'd probably take the needle off after Jessica. 8/10. Track picks: Come And Go Blues, Southbound, Jessica.

Erik Mooney: This is a great album that perfectly blends blues with the southern sounds of a lazy Sunday afternoon. Some excellent guitar riffs that make you want re-listen time and time again. This album is best enjoyed with a cold beer in one hand, a smoke in the other and laying back in a lawn chair with your legs up. Solid 10/10

Bill Griffin: This came at a good time; I had recently decided to start collecting ABB albums in order and this one was the next in line. 

Don't shoot me but, while it shows Betts strengths as a songwriter, I think it reveals his weaknesses as the only guitar player. Leavell more than makes up for it though.

I found it to be a little short (by itself) considering the double albums that preceded it but it is really good. I went, of course, for the four disc "Super Deluxe Edition" and all four discs are excellent.

I wouldn't say it's the definitive ABB studio album as I suppose any of the first four would qualify (and Live At The Fillmore East wins that title anyway.)

Roland Bearne: This is superb! I got it on vinyl a short while ago from a friend selling his collection and I realised that the Allmans were a gap in my "landscape". It's a richly textured and beautifully played collection from Southern honk n boogie to pure Georgia blues with a trip into deep Country with Pony Boy

I nearly skipped Jessica because its Top Gear overexposure, but as it plays "that" riff it a wonderfully jammed piece. Ramblin' Man evokes a those 70s movies with bug trucks, desert car chases, heroins in hot pants and cop cars disappearing in clouds of dust! Fabulous. A classic album indeed.

Final Score: 8.02 ⁄10 (205 votes cast, with a total score of 1646)

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