Alan Paul Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Story of the Album that Defined the ‘70s
Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Story of the Album that Defined the ‘70s
St. Martin’s Press
Acclaimed music columnist and author Alan Paul has covered The Allman Brothers Band and its offshoots for much of his career. He previously wrote the New York Times bestseller, One Way Out: The Inside History of The Allman Brothers Band. Paul also plays music, currently leading an exciting group appropriately dubbed Friends of the Brothers.
Five decades have passed since The Allman Brothers Band released Brothers and Sisters, the album that found them forging ahead in expanded musical directions following the deaths of two of their founders, iconic guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley (Oakley passed during the album’s sessions). Built on a mix of blues, rock, jazz, and country, it sold over seven million copies and catapulted them to superstardom.
In One Way Out, Paul presented the Allman Brothers Band’s 45-year history, skillfully stitched together with quotes from original and subsequent members of the band and many their associates. Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Story of the Album that Defined the ‘70s is an entirely different story. What may seem on the surface to be a subject of narrow appeal, is in fact a quite expansive portrait of an era. Paul offers rich details, abundant in revelations. His smooth, expressive prose ties together an introduction to the Allman Brothers through to their making of an iconic rock album. But striking images of the colorful characters involved and their activities otherwise, the burgeoning American roots music scene and the birth of southern rock, and the pivotal socio-political climes of America at the time, fill out a tale that has the potential to rivet readers far beyond those that are fans.
Much of Paul’s source material was gleaned from listening to hundreds of cassette tapes of interviews that Kirk West, the band’s tour manager from the late 1980s forward, conducted with the members in preparation for his own planned, but never written, account. Taped recollections have become salient turns of phrase. Paul’s description in the introduction of drummer Jaimoe’s initial meeting with Duane Allman is one such: (“The laid-back black drummer who looked like a hipster bodybuilder with his well-developed arms and abs, round sunglasses, beret, and bear claw necklace; and the fiery, skinny hippy, were an Alabama odd couple.”).
Instances during the Allman Brothers’ most commercially and financially successful period are treated with graceful flair, whether they were crowning (their co-billing with the Grateful Dead for the then largest concert ever at Watkins Glen), influential (assisting in President Jimmy Carter’s election and providing the stimulus for Cameron Crowe’s movie Almost Famous), or unflattering (singer Gregg Allman’s drug abuse and his courtship and marriage to Cher).
Paul’s books also include his co-authorship with Andy Aledort of Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well a New York Times bestseller. Charming, insightful, and fascinating, Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Story that Defined the 70s should follow suit straight up the lists.
Tom Clarke for MAS