THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND: SEVEN TURNS (1990)
Since Gregg's and Dickey's solo careers in the 1980s still stubbornly refused to take off (no big surprise there), with ultra-rare exceptions, such as Gregg's surprise 1987 hit 'I'm No Angel', only proving the rule, it was only a question of time before they'd consider coming together again; the real question was — would they take off from the dust in which Brothers Of The Road had left them, or would they forget about the album's existence at all and try to start it all anew?
Fortune helped them out, in the shape of guitarist Warren Haynes, who'd crossed paths with Dickey Betts earlier in the decade and played a bit in his solo band, along with keyboardist Johnny Neel. With the second reunion coming up, Dickey invited both to fatten up the sound of the new Allmans, along with new bass player Allen Woody. Both Haynes and Woody, in addition to being thorough masters of their instruments, also turned out to be stark «old schoolers»: well open to occasionally trying out new things, but putting the restoration and preservation of the classic Allman Brothers spirit above all else.
With the silly Arista contract having expired a long time ago, the rejuvenated band (yes, and they got both of the original drummers back together again) signed with Epic and returned to Tom Dowd for production duties. The issue of songwriting was dealt with in an original way: although all the songwriters are clearly listed, it does not matter much who wrote which song — Betts', Neel's and Haynes' names are scattered throughout almost randomly (Gregg Allman is only co-credited for the lead-in track, but at least he takes on most of the vocals), and the vibe is generally more important here than the actual melodies: Seven Turns is a very good album, but not a single track really threatens the safety of 'Ramblin' Man' or 'Whippin' Post'.
Still, it's hard to deny a little chill when 'Good Clean Fun' opens the album with the kind of thick, meaty, aggressive sound the band hadn't really put out since the early Duane years — and the track's nod to 'Don't Want You No More' (the instrumental that put them and their self-titled album on the map back in 1969) is transparent, right down to somewhat similar chord progressions. The only Allman-Betts collaboration on the album, with Neel listed as third writer, it makes clear from the very first seconds that Brothers Of The Road have, indeed, been downgraded to roadkill; and, first time since 1971, Dickey finally gets a proper sparring partner who promises to restore the band's two-guitar reputation and, more often than not, keeps that promise.
Naturally, with time taking a heavy toll, some of the Turns are blander than others. Dickey, in particular, cannot help throwing in annoying Southern clichés; the two tracks that he sings, 'Let Me Ride' and the title track, have a bit too much ordinary Dixie happiness in them to merit a seal of approval from Duane's heavenly office. But 'True Gravity' marks an excellent revival of the band's instrumental tradition, a challenging, risky journey from headbanging blues-rock to free-form dream territory that we remember these guys for, with Haynes literally taking us back to the idealistic days of 1970 for a few minutes; 'Gambler's Roll' is seven minutes of slow, aching, bleeding, threatening blueswailing with both guitarists and Gregg at their absolute best; and the rest of the songs simply rock out with a vengeance, so that when we get to the final explosion of 'It Ain't Over Yet', we certainly know — the song may literally be about a guy unwilling to break up his romance for good, but what matters is still the metaphor.
Because Seven Turns certainly showed that it ain't over yet, marking one of the most triumphant comebacks of an «oldies act» in history, as well as proving, once and for all, that it is possible to merge talents from different generations — Haynes is thirteen years younger than Gregg and seventeen years younger than Dickey — and still come out with a perfect chemical reaction. Seven thumbs up for each of the seven turns (minus two stinkers from Betts).
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