I have a couple of Delaney & Bonnie albums.
If you like southern blue eyed soul and rock you will have them in your collection.
And I like southern blue eyed soul and rock …
There are worries though …
But, first, allmusic says this, "The husband-and-wife duo of Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett created some of the most distinctive and unique music of the early '70s, but their alchemical sound — equal parts blue-eyed soul, blues, country, and gospel — was often marginalized by the attention instead paid to the contributions of their famous "friends," including rock icons like Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and George Harrison".
And that is important.
Their sound is distinctive, some of their songs are instantly identifiable but they themselves are not instantly recognisable. Perhaps they were overshadowed by their contributors, as suggested, or perhaps, they never played up the married singers angle like Sonny and Cher but for whatever reason the casual musical listener would be hard pressed to pick Delaney & Bonnie out of a musical line-up.
Yet at the time, in the early 70s they were turning out some truly wonderful and trendsetting music. Their blend of white country soul rock gospel and funk became the template for many an act and can still be seen in acts today.
And that is the worry.
Delaney's contribution was equal, or actually greater, than that of Bonnie but Bonnie's blues voice, like Janis Joplin's, captured the spirit of the times and a sound which was evoked over and over. Their sound seemed to suggest that white chicks could get down and dirty, bluesy and free, and, be the musical equal of the white blues male. Helen of Troy's face may have launched a thousand ships but Bonnie, Janis and others launched a lot of idol contestants.
When you sing with as much, err, soul as Bonnie, that's fine, but sadly, many that came after her are just technique. Likewise Delaney, a authentic boy of the south, no doubt encouraged many a boy, north, south, east and west to sing of shacks, troubles, and grits but Delaney, born in Mississippi, knew the music of the south intimately. He lived and breathed it and applied it with taste.
Biography, Allmusic again, " Delaney Bramlett was born July 1, 1939 in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, later befriending fellow aspiring musicians Leon Russell and J.J. Cale. On their recommendation he relocated to Los Angeles, briefly landing with the Champs before he was hired to play guitar with the Shindogs, the house band on the popular ABC television variety series Shindig. Bonnie Lynn O'Farrell, meanwhile, was born November 8, 1944 in Alton, Illinois and raised in nearby East St. Louis; as a teen she backed blues acts including Albert King and Little Milton, before signing on as the first-ever white Ikette behind Ike & Tina Turner. She eventually migrated to Los Angeles as well, and met Delaney while the Shindogs were moonlighting at a local bowling alley. Within a week, the couple were married"
They recorded for Stax and then Elektra and were popular with other musicians, especially Eric Clapton and George Harrison (who were both going through American roots phases after psychedelic or experimental excesses) who recorded and or played with them and this led them signing to Atco (Atlantic) and a live album, then this album and a breakthrough.
There were other albums but they eventually broke up as a couple and a s musical duo. There were solo albums but never the success of the early 70s.
The playing as you would expect is superb. Look at the musicians: Duane Allman, Jim Dickinson, some of Elvis's band, Sam Clayton of Little Feat, Memphis session men, guest spots from Sneeky Pete, King Curtis and Little Richard.
The vibe is both contemporary (1970) and old (1870). The spirit of the counter culture is evoked but the time could be 100 years earlier as the hardships, loss and tales of lover transcend time thought not place. The record oozes the South in sound and attitude. And as such, it was, in some ways, a funky gospel rock and soul flipside to the darker tales told by The Band.
Co-produced by Delaney it is his show. That's not to say it doesn't have it's flaws. It's not perfect. The pitch isn't sustained all the way through and some of the screeching has become ruined by subsequent impersonators but as a soundtrack to the South it will do fine.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Hard Luck and Troubles – (Delaney Bramlett) – A funky way to start and quite rousing with Delaney in fine voice.
- God Knows I Love You – (Delaney Bramlett, Mac Davis) – Co-written by Mac Davis (of "In the Ghetto" fame) this is a good soulful country ballad.
- Lay Down My Burden – (Steve Bogard, Michael Utley) – First appearance here I think. A gospel flavoured screecher done by Bonnie and very well done.
- Medley:- Come On In My Kitchen – (Robert Johnson)/ -Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean – (Herbert Lance, Charles Singleton, John Wallace)/ – Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad – (Traditional, arr. Delaney Bramlett) – A short blues medley with both Delaney and Bonnie vocalising , separately and together. A old Robert Johnson blues merges into a Ruth Brown blues ("Mama he treats your daughter mean – great title, get it ?) before moving onto a trad blues bone by everyone (including Woody Guthrie). The guitar is wonderful.
- The Love of My Man – (Ed Townsend) – Theola Kilgore's #21 pop hit and #3 R&B hit from 1963. White chicks can sing da blues. Rarely, yes, But they can.
- They Call It Rock and Roll Music – (Delaney Bramlett) – Delaney and his involvement in rock 'n' roll in a song. A hoot. King Curtis plays sax.
- Soul Shake – (Margaret Lewis, Myrna Smith) – originally done by Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson in 1969 (#37 pop). A good horn driven soul song.
- Miss Ann – (Richard Penniman, Enotris Johnson) – Recorded by Little Richard in 1957 (it was the B-side to his hit "Jenny Jenny"). Little Richard guests on piano and tears it up..
- Alone Together – (Delaney Bramlett, Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock) – a gentle blues rock with shared vocals.
- Living on the Open Road – (Delaney Bramlett) – a straight ahead rocker with great guitar work.
- Let Me Be Your Man – (George Soulé, Terry Woodford) – I assume this was done first by George Soule. It's a slow 60's Percy Sledge type blues.
- Free the People – (Barbara Keith) – a cover of the Barbara Keith song and a great song which is done beautifully here. A secular song done as a gospel song and, perhaps, one of the defining songs of the era.
Excellent … I'm keeping it.
1970 Free The People The Billboard Hot 100 #75
They Call It Rock and Roll Music
Free the People
- "Bonnie Bramlett was an accomplished singer at an early age, performing with blues guitarist Albert King at age 14 and in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue at 15 – the first white Ikette, "for three days in a black wig and Man Tan skin darkener." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnie_Bramlett
- The album is actually credited to "Delaney & Bonnie and Friends"
RIP Frank Sinatra Jr (January 10, 1944 – March 16, 2016)