Now Spinning: Bonnie Bramlett – It’s Time

After Delaney & Bonnie ended their marriage and band in 1973, Bonnie Bramlett launched an all too short-lived solo career that despite a lack of attention or acclaim, produced three albums culminating with this sorely overlooked southern soul classic, It’s Time. Fairly or not, Delaney & Bonnie are often best remembered for who joined their band (such was the fame of their collaborators) – Eric Clapton with the Derek & Dominos band, George Harrison and more, and, though not to quite the same extent, the lineup for Bonnie’s second solo album is nearly as star-studded. Released on Capricorn Records, the ’70s mammoth southern rock label best known for their association with the Allman Brothers Band, It’s Time features a backing band amalgamating talent from the Allman Brothers and their assorted friends.

The personnel mirror the backing on Gregg Allman’s solo debut Laid Back, starting with Johnny Sandlin at the helm as producer, who had also produced the Allman Brothers’ hugely successful Brothers and Sisters. The Allman Brothers Band certainly have a strong presence on this album, with Gregg Allman (organ on three tracks), Chuck Leavell (piano/electric piano on every track), Butch Trucks (percussion on six tracks) and Jaimoe (percussion on one track) all appearing. They join the core of Bramlett’s studio band, legendary Muscle Shoals guitarist Eddie Hinton and Cowboy, who Gregg Allman and Chuck Leavell had longtime roots with, to provide classic southern soul rhythms behind Bramlett’s vocals. Cowboy’s Tommy Talton contributes searing slide guitar throughout, echoing Duane Allman’s session work in tone, and trading licks with Eddie Hinton, whose presence on every track makes this album an essential chapter in the Allman Brothers family long history with Muscle Shoals soul.

Setting the template for the album, things kick off with a loose, funky electric piano riff from Leavell, soon joined by Hinton’s choppy guitar and Bramlett’s sultry vocals , growing huskier and stronger as the tempo picks up. Much like the early work of Delaney & Bonnie that drew the wonder of post-Cream, Music From Big Pink-obsessed Eric Clapton, It’s Time features fantastic playing balanced by the restraint to simply serve the song, leaving Bramlett’s howling vocals front and center.

Prior to finding success on the ATCO label, Delaney & Bonnie issued an obscure debut album on Stax with backing from Booker T. & the MG’s, and there’s unquestionably a Memphis soul influence Bonnie brings to this album. mashing with the band’s strong roots in Muscle Shoals and southern rock to create a delightful soul stew. The songwriting is reflective of the mix, with two songs contributed by Hinton, two by Cowboy’s Scott Boyer, one by Gregg Allman and two by Bonnie along with a few covers.

How and why this album never succeeded even remotely is a mystery. From the very album title suggestive of solo ambitions to all the in demand talent appearing on brilliant, catchy music, It’s Time should have had a lot going for it. Sexism is certainly a factor when the female half of a husband and wife duo, who doesn’t play an instrument herself, embarks on a solo career. Naturally, Capricorn Records mirrored the peaks and valleys of the Allman Brothers Band in the seventies, and was bankrupt by the end of the decade. The music world was changing, with disco and punk rock knocking Bramlett’s brand of bluesy soul music into a receding niche market… There are reasons this album wasn’t a huge success. But for it to have virtually no success, so forgotten that it’s not released on CD or in any kind of digital version, is near-unfathomable. It’s Time is a masterpiece, harder-edged with more consistency than any of Delaney & Bonnie’s studio work and oozing more soulful grit and focus than the other projects this extended Allman Brothers family were involved with in this era.

I managed to find this one digging through the cheap $2 bins at my wonderful local record store, but without any repressings, it’s not the easiest album to find these days. If you can’t find it at your store, it’s absolutely worth resorting to Discogs where it looks like plenty of preloved copies start for cheap.

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