The Allman Brothers returned during 1981 with their third and last album by what can be considered their mid-career line-ups. It would also be their last studio album for nine years as the band would dissolve during 1982, with various members vowing never to play together again.
The big change was drummer Jai Johanson had been fired before the band entered the recording studio. It was the only studio album in the band’s history on which he did not play. Original members Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, and Butch Trucks remained as did recent members, bassist David Goldflies and guitarist Dan Toler. The new additions were David Toler as the second drummer and Mike Lawler as a second keyboardist, which made the group a seven man band.
Brothers Of The Road was recorded in an atmosphere of animosity and the quality of the music reflects that fact. The band also tried to modernize their sound as the songs are shorter with little of the improvisation that highlighted their best work. They also moved in a more rock direction, leaving their blues roots behind. Dickey Betts and Dan Toler were a very good guitar duo, but here there is little of the fire of their past efforts together. It all added up to an uninspired effort that ranks near the bottom of their catalogue.
Dickey Betts wrote or co-wrote five of the ten tracks but there is nothing that approaches his best work. The best of the lot was “Straight From The Heart,” which became a top forty single hit for the band, but even here it is Gregg Allman who makes the song better than average. It seems that Betts is just going through the motions with little passion.
Gregg Allman can’t save the album but he takes part in most of the highlights. His vocals on “Never Knew How Much (I Needed You),” “Maybe We Can Go Back To Yesterday,” and “Straight From The Heart” are worth a listen.
The band members would quickly go their separate ways. Allman and the Toler brothers would form the Gregg Allman Band and record and tour with moderate success. Betts, Trucks, Goldflies, and former member Chuck Leavell formed BHLT, which only lasted a couple of years. Dickey Betts would then go on to form his own band.
There would be better times to come for The Allman Brothers. Fan can be thankful that this was not their final album, as it would not have provided a fitting end for a great band. Brothers Of The Road is only for fans who want anything Allman.