Delaney Bramlett and Bonnie Lynn O’Farrell did not have the name recognition of Sonny & Cher or the album sales of Buckingham-Nicks, yet between 1969 and 1972, as Delaney & Bonnie they created a sound that combined rock, blues, funk, soul, a little country, and a dose of gospel that was so hip and incendiary that followers the likes of Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and George Harrison were all influenced in one way or another by the duo. Separately, or as together they had a hand in writing Clapton’s “Let It Rain” and Karen Carpenter’s “ Superstar” as well as many other hit songs. Their music has been described as “channeling an ensemble soul review package, emphasizing brass, percussion, and the pair’s powerful vocals.”
Delaney Bramlett honed his musical skills in the 60’s while a member of the house band for the 60’s television show “Shindig” that also featured Leon Russell as a member. Bonnie Lynn O’Farrell made a name for herself as a back-up singer on the soul circuit and was even an as an “Ikette” as part of the “Ike and Tina Turner Review” for a brief time. The two met and married within weeks of knowing each other.
The first album that the pair released was called Home and while being artistically sound it never really caught on with the critics or the record buying public. Sometimes artistic diversity within a single album confuses the record buying public, this may have been the case with this record that was released on the Stax label.
Their second album, Accept No Substitute, was produced by Leon Russell and Donald “Duck” Dunn, and included the songs “Get Ourselves Together” and “Love Me A Little Bit Longer”. This album was also long on talent and sparse on record sales, but did serve to catch the ear of Eric Clapton who, based on this album as well as their solid reputation with their loose conglomeration of musicians known as Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, hired them to open for him on a Blind Faith tour, and described the pair as “a couple of down-home, ordinary cats” He thought enough of these “Ordinary Cats” to join them as an official band member and release the excellent live album Delaney& Bonnie and Friends (On Tour With Eric Clapton).
The final album of their short meteoric career was D & B Together, an album that although it is not their best effort, is noteworthy for several reasons. It is the last album they recorded before divorcing in 1972, the album was initially rejected by their record company at the time (ATCO) due to what they considered poor recording quality, and subsequently sold to another record company, and finally, this recording is considered to be ultra-noteworthy for the stellar stable of musicians that participated in the making of this record. Check out the list of contributors at the end of this review and make sure you gasp appropriately. The partial list includes, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Dave Mason, Billy Preston, and King Curtis.
The album opens with the Dave Mason tune “Only You Know and I Know” that introduces you to the Stax style saxophones, the strong inter-twining vocals of the pair, and some fine Billy Preston ivory- tickling in the middle of the song makes this a more than worthy cover version of a well-known song. A cover that holds up to the original quite nicely as it probably should because of the presence of Dave Mason himself on the recording.
At the risk of offending the Big Guy upstairs, I am not a huge fan of gospel songs. “Wade in the River of Jordan” just may convert me, with the strong , passionate vocals and the organ and piano interplay on the tune, it is very good.
The third song on the album is as the kids like to say off- the-chain. “Sound of the City” is a duet of sorts with Bonnie and Tina Turner trading quick short verses. It is here with Bonnie’s voice side by side with Tina’s familiar growl that you really appreciate what Bonnie brings to the table vocally. With Tina’s voice, Bobby Keys and King Curtis on saxophone, and some slide guitar (Eric or Duane I can’t tell) you would think the Bonnie’s vocals would be overshadowed. They aren’t. This is simply a great, great song and worth the price of admission alone.
“Well, Well” is a nicely paced song with some nice sublime guitar interplay throughout. You can definitely hear Duane Allman on this cut.
“Coming Home” is the studio version of the Eric Clapton song made famous on the live album. It doesn’t scorch like the live version but is a fine song and an excellent driving tune by the way.
The 7th song on the album “Move ‘Em Out” is medium paced, bitter sweet rocker that is especially ironic given the impending divorce of the couple. The song is not as “raw” or gritty as some of the others but is a fun song never the less.
“Big Change Comin’” and “A Good Thing (I’m On Fire) are two songs with more of the same Stax soul and fire to them, which is a good thing.
The song “Groupie (Superstar) “is presented in a much more “hip”, musically appealing style than the slightly more wholesome Karen Carpenter version. Karen’s version is of course, just “Superstar”. I wonder if Karen even knew the song was about an encounter with an imagined groupie.
The last song on the album, “Country Life”, is a country tinged number adding another ingredient to this gumbo of genres, styles, and musicians.
This album is a “Desert Island” disc for me mostly because it is great yes, but also if I only have a finite number of CD’s I can bring to the island, I can bring this one and won’t have to bring a Dave Mason, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Rita Coolidge, Allman Brothers, Booker T and the MG’s, or Leon Russell disc with me. This album has all of those artists covered quite nicely.
It really is a shame this band did not last longer. Personal differences aside, it might have been that the music the band was creating was so difficult to categorize that audiences were not ready to accept such musical diversity on one record that ultimately led to the bands early demise. Also contributing to their short life span could have been due to lack of recognition they received as musicians in their own right during this time period due to the top-notch “best in class” talent they surrounded themselves with.
I like to think they were simply ahead of their time. So give this album a listen and find out why Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and Tina Turner were such huge fans of this fabulous……”Dynamic Duo”. Once you do, you might want to join their band as well.
— Walt Falconer, Houston Texas, USA
- “Only You Know and I Know” (Dave Mason) – 3:26
- “Wade in the River of Jordan” (Traditional, arr. Delaney Bramlett) – 2:10
- “Sound of the City” (Delaney Bramlett, Joe Hicks) – 2:39
- “Well, Well” (Delaney Bramlett) – 3:03
- “I Know How It Feels to Be Lonely” (Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Ware) – 3:47
- “Comin’ Home” (Bonnie Bramlett, Eric Clapton) – 3:13
- “Move ‘Em Out” (Steve Cropper, Bettye Crutcher) – 2:50
- “Big Change Comin'” (Delaney Bramlett) – 3:22
- “A Good Thing (I’m on Fire)” (Delaney Bramlett, Gordon DeWitty) – 2:13
- “Groupie (Superstar)” (Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell) – 2:49
- “I Know Something Good About You” (Delaney Bramlett, Joe Hicks) – 4:11
- “Country Life” (Delaney Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock) – 3:38
- Delaney Bramlett – guitar, vocals
- Bonnie Bramlett – vocals
- Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals
- Leon Russell – piano, keyboards, vocals
- Duane Allman – guitar, vocals
- Dave Mason – guitar, vocals
- Carl Radle – bass, vocals
- John Hartford – banjo, vocals
- Steve Cropper – guitar, vocals
- Jim Gordon – drums, vocals
- Red Rhodes – steel guitar, vocals
- Jaimoe – drums, vocals
- Billy Preston – keyboards, piano, vocals
- Charlie Freeman – guitar, vocals
- Kenny Gradney – bass, vocals
- Bobby Whitlock – keyboards, vocals
- Bobby Keys – saxophone, vocals
- James Jamerson – bass, vocals
- Jerry Jumonville – saxophone, vocals
- King Curtis – saxophone, vocals
- Larry Knechtel – bass, vocals
- Darrell Leonard – trumpet, vocals
- Jim Price – horns, vocals
- Chuck Rainey – bass, vocals
- Larry Savoie – trombone, vocals
- Rita Coolidge – vocals
- Tina Turner – vocals
- Venetta Fields – vocals
- Merry Clayton – vocals
- Eddie Kendricks – vocals
- Sam Clayton – vocals
- Joe Hicks – vocals
- Patrice Holloway – vocals
- Tex Johnson – vocals
- Clydie King – vocals
- Sherlie Matthews – vocals
- Gordon De Witty – vocals
- Jay York – vocals
- Web site to help induct Delaney and Bonnie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- See more goodies that we’ve featured from 1972