Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Best of Delaney & Bonnie

Best known for their relationship with Eric Clapton, D&B actually had quite a career before they crossed paths with Slowhand. Delaney began as a member of the Shindogs, the house band for the 60's TV show, Shindig, and built a group around people he worked with there plus local (LA) sessions players. Leon Russell, then mainly a session pianist, was a prize acquisition, who helped write songs and create arrangements, as well as play both piano and guitar.

They built a Southern R'n'B/gospel/blues-inspired congregation with the likes of Bobby Keys & Jim Price on horns - giving them a very different sound than most acid-rock bands of the time - this was well before the Southern Rock movement. They landed an opening slot for Blind Faith and once that group fizzled, Eric joined them (George Harrison also appeared on some gigs - they were in good company at the time!) for a tour and even did a live album (which accounts for a couple highlights on this CD). They helped Eric record his first solo album before the musicians left - according to Keys it was due to a lapse in playing - to join Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour. Duane Allman did some work for them, they got their biggest hits - the untypical country novelty number "Never Ending Song of Love" and the the more conventional - and rockin' - "Only You Know and I Know", the Dave Mason number. The group and the couple split not long after this and did some solo work throughout the years.

This CD is mostly filled with their gospel-fused, blue-eyed, r'n'b - not that far removed from what Clapton did early in his career - which makes sense. As I said, the numbers with Eric are some of the more noteworthy and his playing is tops here. There is also an early version of "Piece of My Heart" (not sure who managed to release this first, cuz this is close to the time of Janis' take), Leon's great "Superstar", an acoustic "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and lots more.

While the musicians are excellent throughout, the songs are not always super memorable. Good stuff, but I understand why they never moved up another notch in the r'n'r hierarchy. Glad I have it, but I probably won't be searching out a lot more.