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17 February 2012 @ 10:32 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #143: The Allman Brothers Band "Seven Turns"  
This week has been been a sensory overload week for me in the musical sense. It started before the Grammy's, but the performances during the ceremony definitely had a lighter-fluid to the bonfire effect. I'm not going to get into the pros/cons of the Grammy and whether or not they represent the best of music or even the discussion whether there should be trophies for art, et al. What I will say is that there were a number of really wonderful performances (The Civil Wars, Adele, Paul McCartney) that were energizing and while I wondered how many of the songs and albums nominated would have the lasting power of some of the best performances of the night - the Abbey Road Suite, "Rhinestone Cowboy," or "I Will Always Love You," - I was encouraged that there was a lot of talent and excitement on that stage.

At the end last week as I was winding down the Josh Joplin entry I was in a Southern mood and was thinking about The Allman Brothers Band song "Seven Turns" quite a bit and wanted to pull that CD off the shelf for a spin. In the midst of this refreshed musical awareness, I've been hearing new and different things in the music I know by heart, and I've felt more connected and involved with what I'm listening to. +Live+ was crushing me earlier this week as I zipped through their catalog, reconnecting with lost favorites. The first Lifehouse record still resonated well, The Civil Wars continued to amaze, an Australian prog-melodic-metal band Voyager was impressing me, listening to Matt Nathanson performances on you tube were a treat as always, and then a brand new Tara MacLean live performance captured in full from Salt Spring Island had me over the moon.

But the Allmans are on tap so let's get to it!

Why on earth did I pick "Seven Turns" over the more traditional classics or even some of my other favorite ABB cuts like "Revival" or "Statesboro Blues" or "Lizzy Reed" or "Blue Sky" or "Melissa" or the myriad of other ABB classics that I love so much? (as if you think I won't tell you [insert coy smile here])

Like most rock radio listeners in the '80s I got my fill of ABB's '70s classics, but unlike most of those folks, I had no idea who they were. Sure I heard the songs, but they weren't on MTV so they flew under my very visual radar. The Seven Turns cassette (1990) was the first ABB that my brother purchased and therefore the first one that I was truly exposed to. MTV did push it quite a bit as well and I remember the "Good Clean Fun" video. Returning for their first studio release in 8 years, the newly reunited Allman Brothers Band recruited the producer that helped put them on the map, Tom Dowd, and introduced some new talent, into the mix. It wasn't until 1995 when I started following the band Bloodline, which included Berry D. Oakley, the son of ABB's original bassist, that I started digging into their '70s work. When I first heard A Decade of Hits as each song played I recognized them as radio cuts I'd heard countless times before, but never made the connection (or at least didn't care to make the connection until then).

Seven Turns is still my favorite album of theirs, it's just stacked with great arrangements and playing. The addition of Warren Haynes, Allen Woody, and Johnny Neel renewed their spirit and Gregg, Dickey, Jaimoe, and Butch delivered wonderful performances on a slew of top-notch material. None more wonderful than the title cut though.

The Allman Brothers Band: "Seven Turns"



Guitarists Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts just drive the song, from the acoustic and slide intro underneath Dickey's vocal to the ending solos. When it starts you feel as if you're on the porch with the Brothers listening in on a little jam session. It has that spontaneous vibe that they've run through it a couple of times and they're just taking it for a ride, trading off vocals and trading off guitar licks. I've always thought of it as a summer song, but recently it's sounding so good here in the depth of winter (well, there's really no depth to this winter, is there). When the vocal harmonies come in on the second verse the song really starts to come alive as it begins to gain steam and Johnny Neel's rolling piano underneath the chorus adds such great texture. A contained little guitar jam, which honestly could have gone on for another minute or so and I wouldn't have minded, is tastefully done and fits the spirit wonderfully as it leads into another round of the chorus. By the time Gregg delivers the emotionally charged vocals on the ride-out you just never want the song to end.

And it contains that quintessential ABB mantra: "Love is all that remains the same"

Here's a wonderful live version from MTV Unplugged 1990: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-15ATSFEqRo

Seven Turns
Seven turns on the highway
Seven rivers to cross
Sometimes you feel like you could fly away
Sometimes you get lost

And sometimes in the darkened night
You see the cross road sign
One way is the mornin' light
You got to make up your mind

Somebody's callin' your name
Somebody's waitin' for you
Love is all that remains the same
That's what it's all comin' to

Runnin' wild out on the road
Just like a leaf on the wind
How in the world could you ever know
We'd ever meet again?

Seven turns on the highway
Seven rivers to cross
Sometimes you feel like you could fly away
Sometimes you get lost

Somebody's callin' your name
Somebody's waitin' for you
Love is all that remains the same
That's what it's all comin' to


More Allman Brothers Band:
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (live 1970)
Gambler's Roll
Revival (live 1991)
Blue Sky