Your Sister’s (Record) Rack – Gregg Allman … and Woman
Have to admit, I have given a lot of thought recently on whether we should continue this series. The original concept was to give a spin to old records that were not famous or well-remembered for one reason or another – mainly because they weren’t as good as classics like Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper’s. But it was getting to be slightly depressing, because these mostly forgotten albums are still light years better and more listenable than much of today’s musical offerings.
As you can see, I decided to soldier on – but with an eye toward balance, I’ve resolved to seek out albums that were recognized as not so good in their time. And, ho ho, that’s what we have today – the 1977 masterpiece Two The Hard Way, billed to “Allman and Woman,” who were of course Gregg Allman and his then-wife Cher.
The story starts in 1975 when Gregg Alllman, the only living Allman Brother in his eponymous band, married pop singer and TV star Cher in Vegas. At the time most people felt they took this unlikely step because he was coked out of his gourd and because Cher was batshit crazy – at the time she and Allman married, her divorce from Sonny Bono had been official for only three days.
Of course, nine days after the marriage Cher filed for divorce. He pledged to dry out and eventually won her back within a month. But the stress of the whole thing aggravated Cher’s acne and she couldn’t tape her TV show. Early the next year, in 1976, she re-teamed with ex Sonny for a new “Sonny and Cher” TV show and that freaked out Gregg and he left – but they got back together and had a son, Elijah Blue.
Whew! The Allman Brothers Band had pretty much broken up by this time because Gregg was busted for drug possession in 1976 and in exchange for immunity from prosecution, Allman testified against tour manager John “Scooter” Herring and threw him under the bus. For supplying drugs to Allman, Herring got 75 years in prison (he actually served only 30 months before the sentence was overturned). The rest of the band considered Allman’s testimony an act of betrayal, so the band soon broke up.
Amid this soap opera, at some point Allman and Cher decided to cut an album together. Allman served as the album’s producer, and he enlisted the help of rock heavyweights like guitarist Fred Tackett (Little Feat), bassist Willie Weeks and, on horns, Jim Horn and Randall Bramblett. The album was a mix of Allman’s Southern soul-rock and Cher’s pop stuff.
The album kicks off with “Move Me,” an uptempo skip that sounds almost disco (well, it was 1977). Actually Cher’s yowling didn’t sound too bad when blended with Allman’s soulful singing but “Move Me,” also the first single from the album, was pretty terrible. Then comes the first back-and-forth between Allman and Woman, on “I Found You Love.” Exchanging lovey-dovey verses like a hellish Otis and Carla, Allman and Cher and some syrupy strings (or synthesizers) sink this into a shit-swamp of schmaltz.
Are there any highlights? Well, maybe “Love Me,” a Leiber-Stoller chestnut first done by Elvis, might be considered OK. Or maybe Jackson Browne’s “Shadow Dream Song,” which has no Cher on it. Fact is, Two the Hard Way has plenty of low-lights: perhaps “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (the Smokey Robinson classic also covered by Sonny and Cher) and the downright embarrassing “I Love Makin’ Love To You” are the worst.
In an astonishing display of taste – considering disco was about to become really popular – the record-buying public virtually ignored Two the Hard Way. And, a tour to back the album had only limited involvement from Cher and lasted all of about 12 dates. After that tour, Cher said Gregg was back on drugs; when Gregg passed out in a plate of spaghetti at some awards event, she filed for divorce again and this time it stuck. She found solace in the arms of KISS bassist Gene Simmons, and Gregg would re-form the Allman Brothers Band with no original members in 1978. What a storybook ending.
Gregg Allman has a new album, Low Country Blues, coming out on Jan. 18. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the album is Allman’s first solo recording in 14 years and features Dr. John and Randall Bramblett. Here’s a video of Gregg talking about the new album: