The Gregg Allman Band: Just Before The Bullets (Fly CBS)

SO BROTHER Duane was perhaps the leading exponent of slide guitar, his virtuoso expertise gracing the grooves of Clapton’s finest hour and a half, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, until he met his maker in a tragic bike smash in 1973. Poor Gregg had similarly horrific fate as he ambled up the aisle with Sonny Bono’s ex-missus Cher. But, trooper that he is, Gregg has kept the Allman Brothers flame burning. Bullets Fly joins earlier Allman works, like Win, Lose Or Draw from 1975, and proves that, if you try hard enough, you can create replicas of mid-Seventies Johnny Winter albums whenever the fancy takes you.

A Southern-fried, headless chicken or a bar-room boogie album, Bullets is so retro it’s virtually back in fashion by the end of side one. ‘Can’t Get Over You’ and ‘Demons’ indicate that, for some lost souls, the beginning and end of time came with Cream’s ‘Badge’ and Slowhand’s ‘After Midnight’. Gruff, hairy vocals and muscular, competent rock stompers, all trussed up with nowhere to go but the cut-out bins. And Dan Toler’s panoply of licks; and riffs not as fluid or intimately relevant as, say, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s vaguely similar work on those great old Steely Dan LPs. But don’t tell The Gregg Allman Band who, judging from the cover, look as though they could bend spines at a 1000 paces. Don’t bite these Bullets.

© Paul LesterMelody Maker, 6 May 1989

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