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Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Win, Lose Or Draw

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The Allman Brothers recovered well after the deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. 1973’s Brothers and Sisters topped the American album charts and remains one of the strongest releases in the band’s catalog.

Two years later, the group returned with Win, Lose Or Draw. The album would find the band in crisis and on the verge of dissolution. Personal differences had arisen during the last couple of years. Dickey—then known as Richard—Betts had taken over the leadership of the band, which did not sit well with some of the other members. Drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks skipped the recording sessions for two of the songs and were replaced by producer Johnny Sandlin and session musician Bill Stewart. The music scene was also changing and the sound of The Allman Brothers was out of vogue.

The album was an inconsistent affair with three very good songs, one that was average, and three filler tracks. It would be a commercial success, reaching number five on The United States album charts, but some of that was probably due to the band’s past reputation.

When The Allman Brothers are good, they are very good and such was the case with three of the tracks. “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” is an old Muddy Waters tune. The band was at the top of its game as they fused its blues roots with its southern rock style. It ended up as one the hardest rocking tracks of the group’s career.

The title song was a Gregg Allman composition. The vocal may not have been the best of his career, but the song itself remains one of his superior compositions. “High Falls” was one of those instrumentals that Richard Betts was so good at creating. It has a jazzy feel, with Chuck Leavell’s piano work providing a nice foundation. The song stretches out to over 14 minutes, so there is room for the band members to step forward and shine like the band of old.

“Just Another Love Song” is another Betts song. The writing may be average at best, but his guitar work saves the day. By the time of this release, he had established himself as one of the premier guitarists in the world. Betts had developed a tone and sound that was unique and easily recognizable.

The final three tracks are not up to par. Gregg Allman’s “Nevertheless” and Betts’ “”Louisiana Lou and Three Card Monty” just never take off and are now forgotten in the band’s vast catalog. The Allman Brothers were usually adept at picking cover songs, but Billy Joe Shaver’s “Sweet Mama” was a rare miss.

Win, Lose Or Draw had some high points but was ultimately a disappointment. The band would not produce another studio album until it reformed during the late ’70s. This is an album only listenable for a few tracks.

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