What does it sound like?:
In 1969, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett must have felt on top of the world. Bonnie sang with such freedom and passion, she was the first white Ikette. She could even scream in tune. Delaney was a dazzlingly talented singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer, capable of anything and a very charming man to boot. Judging by the strange, Edwardian cover, Delaney & Bonnie were enjoying domestic bliss. Professionally, they had a bag full of songs, a shiny new contract with Elektra and a band of ‘Friends’ whose talents compared favourably with their own: Leon Russell, Carl Radle, Jim Keltner, Bobby Whitlock, Jerry McGhee, Bobby Keys, Jim Price and Rita Coolridge.
The Original Delaney And Bonnie And Friends (Accept No Substitute) is an alchemic brew of an album. Imagine a white rock band playing Gospel, then stretch that to include Country, Blues and Soul. They put all that together, cast a magic spell, and came up with a rollicking good-time sound that turned heads. It is sweet, sexy, sassy and soulful.
The opening two tracks, Get Ourselves Together and Someday, introduce us to the husband and wife vocal interplay and the infectious guitar and horn blend. Leon Russell’s piano takes the spotlight for Ghetto, buoyed by an imaginative string arrangement by Jimmie Haskell. The Staple Singers were so impressed by its R&B credentials, they covered it. When The Battle Is Over and Dirty Old Man are gritty and earthy. The lust comes out for Delaney on Love Me A Bit Longer, matched by Bonnie’s longing in I Can’t Take It Much Longer. A cover of Do Right Woman, Do Right Man drags on a little but the following Soldiers Of The Cross is a highlight. Bonnie soars to the heavens on this traditional Gospel song with a Rock arrangement. She is so impassioned, I fear her chest will burst open. It’s an astonishing performance of which Mahalia Jackson would be proud. The closing Gift Of Love happily sends us all off with Californian sunshine in our hearts.
Unfortunately and somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t a hit.
Now, consider those heads that were turned and look again at the list of musicians who participated. You may recognise many of those names. George Harrison heard an early acetate of the album and persuaded them to sign for Apple. Elektra soon voided that contract. George recommended them to his good friend Eric Clapton as a support for a Cream tour. Eric was so smitten by them, believing them to be better than his own band, Cream broke up and he joined Delaney & Bonnie’s Friends himself. Soon, those Friends were in demand, backing Joe Cocker, playing on All Things Must Pass, morphing into The Dominos for Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs and the horn section splintering off to work regularly with The Rolling Stones.
Those stellar, superstar connections almost relegate Accept No Substitute to a historical footnote, to such a degree that its quality and unique sound is often overlooked. Thankfully, the Man In The Moon label has reissued it in their no-nonsense style so we can all enjoy its considerable charms again.
What does it all *mean*?
George Harrison and Eric Clapton had excellent taste.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs with better singing, more horns and fewer guitar solos, a less deranged Mad Dogs & Englishmen or All Things Must Pass with the over-production removed.