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Mobius Strip

Delaney Bramlett

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Album Review

Mobius Strip was recorded and released in 1973, during Delaney Bramlett's separation from Bonnie in the wake of their imminent divorce. Amazingly, this doesn't immediately show in the music. In fact, it's more joyous in places than its predecessor, Some Things Coming. That said, one has to wonder if Bramlett was losing it here, given that its opener is titled "Are You a Beatle or a Rolling Stone." By rights it should be dreadful; but it's not. Bramlett's cornball humor aside, the song's tale of life on the road depicts the '70s in all of its decadent glory. It's also a savagely funky R&B-drenched rocker. The band on this set is a bit larger but it's also leaner. Bramlett handles a lot of the backing vocals and percussion himself, offering his true worth as a singer. He plays guitar a lot more, too, each track is shot through his nasty Telecaster and Stratocaster fills and solos. He's got Jim Gordon and Jerry Jumonville on saxes (the latter plays bagpipes à la Rufus Harley on one cut), and George Bohannon handles the charts for the horns on a few tracks: Bramlett does the rest, and uses the same core organ session from Some Things Coming, essentially his road band of bassist Robert G. Wilson, organist Timothy Hedding, and drummer Ron Grayson. The tunes where there are other backing vocals feature Venetta Fields and Chris Thomas King and some group called "the Hired Choir," as well as a "mini-choir" comprising the children of Bramlett, and King (for Fleetwood Mac fanatics, this marks the very first recorded performance of Bekka Bramlett).

The opener and "What Am I Doin' (In a Place Like This)," could have come off Some Things Coming; they're raucous, rowdy, and drenched in the Muscle Shoals horn and rhythm section soul-meets-blues formula that crackles with power and sexual energy. But the change-up happens on the set's third track, a stripped down ballad by Randy Sharp called "A Young Girl (In Her Garden)," that could have been composed by Jimmy Webb. The desperation in Bramlett's vocal reveals his precarious situation, caught between regret and the desire for love in his life. "Big Ol' Piece of Blues," is just what it says it is, and then comes the charging road band soul of "Circles" that offers more naked confessionalism with the amazing call and response backing vocals and choir, in a completely hypnotic vocal pattern that matches the (no pun intended) circular rhythms employed by the drum kit and percussion section. The organ and horns here are transcendent; they offer the singer courage as he bares his ripped up heart and lost sense of purpose for the listener. But the funky, gritty sound that typifies Bramlett's best work is everywhere, and his arrangement for the chorus is astonishing.

"When a Man Is in Need of a Woman" is not a rewrite of the Percy Sledge hit, it's a strictly honest "Let's-look-at-this-without-pretense," delivery that may be sung right out to Bonnie, or it may be sung to the heavens. Damn! The slide work and special synth effects on "I'm a M-A-N" are a change-up for the first few seconds before Bramlett roars like a lion and lets his slide do the talking, challenging Bohannon's horns to go the distance with him. Jim Hobson's piano is poignant here and is the only thing that keeps the piece on the ground. The set closes with "California Rain," a ballad with Bramlett on his 12-string guitars, a B-3, piano, and a skeletal bassline that is every bit as poignant as any singer/songwriter tune that's ever been laid down, but Bramlett's singing is as expressive as ________ (name any great Atlantic or Stax male vocalist after Otis Redding). It's as sad a tune as you're likely to hear, but it's music that moves past grief and loneliness toward the willingness to live another day. As the children's choir kicks in, all off-key and sincere, one can feel the sun coming through the clouds. This album, like all of the Delaney & Bonnie predecessors, and his solo offerings, endures into the 21st century, even if it is forgotten and can only be had either second-hand or ordered at import prices. It doesn't matter; this is essential American roots music, every bit as powerful now as when it was released.


Born: 01 July 1939 in Pontotoc, MS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Although his popularity was often eclipsed by the artists he mentored, Delaney Bramlett was an accomplished guitarist and singer/songwriter whose style influenced the likes of Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale, and Duane Allman. A native of Pontotoc, MS, he served time in the U.S. Navy before moving to Los Angeles in 1959. He soon became a member of the Shindogs, the resident band on the TV show Shindig. Such a job allowed Bramlett to rub shoulders with other notable musicians, and in 1967 he met Bonnie Lynn...
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Mobius Strip, Delaney Bramlett
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