Allman Bros., Ten Wheel Drive at the Whisky

THE ALLMAN Bros. Band and Ten Wheel Drive, who will be co-featured at the Whisky A Go Go through Sunday, are respectable entries in their respective genres, and each is even capable of occasional excitement.

But the sad fact is that in both cases what might have inspired terrific enthusiasm several trends and a couple of years ago, is now so overfamiliar as to be boring.

The Allman Bros. hail from Georgia, include assorted former sidemen from such R’n’B giants as Aretha Franklin, and deal for the most part in deafening rural blues.

Entirely professional, enviably tight and intimate to the point of mastery with their form’s rudiments, they are eminently competent in an idiom whose recent saturation demands that a group that would excite, let alone improve on the idiom’s originals, be much more than competent.

Granted that the organ-playing Allman’s lead voice is remarkably black-sounding (although it has a range of about four notes), and that they handle the endless tempo changes in their interesting arrangement of the standard ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ with breathtaking precision, there’s really nothing at all to distinguish the Allmans from a thousand other white blues groups galloping across the country, unless it’s that they use two drummers and take nude publicity shots.

Ten Wheel Drive’s one and only distinguishing characteristic is its use of a five-, count ’em, five-man horn section. Given special billing with the group is a pretty little lady named Genya Ravan who plays bad harmonica and sings a lot like Tina Turner, except not half so excitingly and with neither the energy nor hair-yanking passion that make Tina’s performances uplifting in so many ways.

Essentially, Ten Wheel Drive is just another in a seemingly endless series of basically nothing white soul groups who try to cover up their luke-warmness with several layers of blaring brass.

Incidentally, don’t be surprised if some day soon a band mounts the Whisky stage with 20, 40, or even 100 horn players, what with mediocre white R’n’B groups everywhere seeming to be involved in some absurd contest to see who can carry around the most horns.

© John MendelssohnLos Angeles Times, 24 January 1970

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