Recorded in 1972 and released a year later in 1973, Brothers And Sisters saw The Allman Brothers Band forced to evolve again due to the tragic death of bassist Berry Oakley. Just like 1972’s Eat A Peach, the album was recorded before and after the death of a key member but the band decided to carry on and hire a new bassist in Lamar Williams. The result, Brothers And Sisters, is an incredible album which may well be their landmark studio recording.
The first two songs are the only songs on the album that feature original bassist Berry Oakley, the first being Gregg Allman’s Wasted Words. A piano driven song, it’s sadly one of only two songs on the album written by Allman, the first time Dickey Betts had more songs featured. However it’s an exciting song and a perfect opener. With the inclusion of Chuck Leavell on piano you get the first taste of the band’s new musical direction after the death of Duane. That new musical direction continues with the great Ramblin’ Man by guitarist Dickey Betts. The song was originally written two years earlier in 1971 but wouldn’t be recorded until the sessions for this album. To this day it remains their first and only top 10 hit in the USA and features for the first time a country influence. It couldn’t be any more removed from their previous three studio albums where the music was rooted in blues and rock. It also marks Berry Oakley’s last appearance on an Allman Brothers song.
- Wasted Words
- Ramblin’ Man
- Come And Go Blues
- Jelly Jelly
- Pony Boy
Come And Go Blues is the second song by Allman to feature on the album and it’s one of the highlights on the album overall. The song would be re-recorded by Allman for his 1977 album Playin’ Up A Storm but this original version is outstanding on every level and may well be one of his finest ever songs. Leavell’s fantastic piano solo at the 1:11 mark is outstanding and Allman on lead vocals shows why he’s considered one of the best vocalists of the early 70’s. He sounds great. Jelly Jelly comes next with Allman continuing to put on a fantastic display behind the microphone. The song musically is very reminiscent of another the band used to perform during the Duane days called I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town, originally by Casey Bill Weldon in 1936. Lyrically it’s different of course but the music sounds the same and it’s extremely satisfying to listen to. The band as a whole sound great here showing the world that the new lineup with Lamar Williams and Chuck Leavell is a force to be reckoned with.
The final three songs on the album are all written by Dickey Betts, the first being Southbound even though Gregg Allman takes lead vocal duties. Jessica however is the standout track from these three and was written by Betts as an experiment to see if he could write and play a song using only two fingers. The answer was yes. Just like Ramblin’ Man, the song features a country influence and at the time was the latest in a series of stunning instrumental songs composed by Betts. At seven and a half minutes it’s the longest song on the album and shows how capable the new unit could be together. The final song on Brothers And Sisters is the Robert Johnson influenced Pony Boy with Betts on slide guitar. It’s a fun sounding song and an excellent end to the album, although only four members of the band actually featured on the song: Betts, Leavell, Williams and Trucks. Allman and Jaimoe don’t play.
Overall it’s a great album and certainly holds it’s own alongside other albums from the early 1970’s. When it comes to best albums by The Allman Brothers Band, it’s a difficult one to talk about. Musically it could be the most pleasing, the most consistent. The band had to break away from the blues/rock route the band had been on with Duane and the songs featured on Brothers And Sisters are beautiful to listen to, especially considering the heartbreak they had been through before and during the album sessions. Their best work was with Duane and Berry of course, but Brothers And Sisters is a great album nonetheless.