There can be few classic albums of any era produced in the aftermath of personal tragedy as those experienced by The Allman Brothers band. On October 29th 1971, keyboard player Gregg Allman lost a brother, the band and the world losing one of the great blues / slide guitarists of all time in founder member Duane, killed in a motorcycle accident. Re-grouping without their inspired lead guitarist, the decision taken not to replace the irreplaceable, instead the whole dynamic of the band changed with Dickey Bett’s, Duane’s fretwork partner, adopting sole guitar duties and the introduction of Chuck Leavell’s piano, replacing the more familiar twin guitar attack, they set about recording “Brothers and Sisters” the first album solely without Duane.
With just two tracks laid down by November 11th 1972, this day revealing further heartbreak, bassist Berry Oakley also losing his life in yet another bike accident. At this point, many bands would have capitulated, although undoubtedly bruised and battered, The Allman Brothers battled on, Lamar Williams joined on bass and somehow they produced a record destined to be their biggest commercial success to date, and oh what a record. Cynics may suggest the success of ‘Brothers and Sisters’ could be attributed to sympathy around the back story, but listen to the music, what transpires is an album of wonderfully written, incredibly played blues and country, worthy a lofty position in any era. The introduction of piano adds another dimension, adopting a lead role to intermingle and entwine Bett’s guitar and Gregg Allmans organ to ultimate effect, completely apparent through the instantly recognisable instrumental tones of “Jessica.” Elsewhere, Allmans strained, soulful vocals complement Bett’s guitar perfectly within “Wasted Words” or “Come and Go Blues,” before the extended solo ending of “Jelly Jelly” further highlights Betts style, little in the way of manic shredding, instead laid back, clear and precise, an absolute joy to aurally behold, just a shame about the annoying fade. Bett’s further cementing his position front stage, adopting vocal duties on the more countrified “Rambling Man,” and “Pony Boy.”
Along with the digitally re-mastered version of the album, also included within the four CD collection, 10 previously unreleased rehearsals, jams and outtakes, giving an insight into the songs development before fully recorded and a two hour performance at Winterland in September 73, highlighting the sheer brilliance of The Allman Brothers live experience. The gig does also serve to illustrate however, while tracks from “Sisters and Brothers” work perfectly due to development around the new line-up, on earlier material such as “Whipping Post” or “Done Somebody Wrong” there’s a definite feeling of somebody missing. After enjoying the extended four CD / Vinyl format which make up this version of “Brothers and Sisters”, grab yourself a copy of “Live at the Fillmore East” if you don’t already own it and experience one of the greatest concert albums ever recorded……..R.I.P Duane.
This Super Deluxe Collection serves a dual purpose, a beautifully packaged introduction to one of the finest Blues Rock bands America has produced, with enough images, information around the recording of the album and unreleased material to satisfy the purist.