THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND: BROTHERS OF THE ROAD (1981)
1) Brothers Of The Road; 2) Leavin’; 3) Straight From The Heart; 4) The Heat Is On; 5) Maybe We Can Go Back To Yesterday; 6) The Judgement; 7) Two Rights; 8) Never Knew How Much (I Needed You); 9) Things You Used To Do; 10) I Beg Of You.
If there is one nomination in which Brothers Of The Road would fail to acquire the title of «Worst Of... Ever», it requires sharp brains indeed to come up with it. If there is one disaster that reluctantly agreed to pass this record by, I have no idea what it is. Hiring Barry and Robin Gibb to do the vocals, perhaps?
The blame lies hard and heavy on everyone, but mostly on producer John Ryan, who seems to have been so firmly set on putting his entrusted band back onto the surface of MOR-waves that he had no problems about making a deal with the devil and magically converting the Allman Brothers into the Doobie Brothers. Most of these songs are tailor-made for your local Southern rock radio station with no hopes whatsoever of making it on a larger scale. Tired, generic, sometimes non-existent riffs, bland lyrics, no inspiration or innovation whatsoever.
What is particularly wrong? Everything. Jaimoe had been fired, destroying the final magic charm of the band — the drummer duo: his replacement, Frankie Toler, has no reason whatsoever to exist since he just faithfully copies Trucks’ patterns. The album cover features seven long-haired dudes in happy shirts, smirking in the middle of a field on a hill as if to say «Betcha not even the Eagles could be as down to earth as us here!» The obligatory instrumental is at last gone without a trace: the Doobie Brothers did not build their gorgeous reputation upon no weirdass wanking, so why should these guys? (Not that I seriously mind — ‘From The Madness Of The West’ clearly showed their chief instrumental writer at the end of his rope).
And then it takes exactly three seconds of ‘Two Rights’ to understand what all these unpleasant surface omens translate to on record. All of the instruments that come in during these three seconds join in a prime slice of musical spam, heralded by the ugly canned synthesizer. Johnny Cobb helped Betts co-write the song, along with the minor hit ‘Straight From The Heart’, which takes the worst elements of Southern rock and disco and brilliantly synthesizes them.
Big, big, really big fans of Dickey Betts will still want this album for several examples of his fine soloing — one thing nature had not yet taken from him — particularly on the ballad-rocker ‘Maybe We Can Go Back To Yesterday'’which really kicks ass during the last minutes, almost as if the first ones, on which Gregg was singing silly lyrics in a dramatically overblown and inadequate manner, never existed. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for really big fans of Gregg: of his two contributions, ‘Leavin’ sounds like a so-so imitation of the Lynyrd Skynyrd swagger (yes, the day has come indeed when the Allmans are taking lessons from the Skynyrds), and ‘Never Knew How Much’ is way too fluffy even for his usually schmaltzy country-ballad tone. “Never knew how much a man needed a woman, never knew how much a boy needed a girl” — sure lyrics don’t matter much in pop music, but try to sing along and you’ll know that «not much» and «not at all» are not quite the same thing.
Conclusion: if Reach For The Sky was simply sort of dull, then Brothers Of The Road is simply sort of awful. We should all be thankful that it tanked, or else we could be stuck with this Allman-Doobie Overdrive for the rest of the decade. As it was, the «reunion», by now sunk to levels lower than self-parody, finally came apart, and all the bit players took a fortunate break right up to the end of the decade. Thumbs down with a vengeance.