Win, Lose Or Draw
Capricorn Records, 1975
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/04/2002
With the untimely deaths of two of their main members, The Allman Brothers Band seemed like they were in a constant state of flux from 1971 to 1975. If it wasn't the line-up undergoing a change necessitated due to tragedy, it was a shift in the focus on the music. With Brothers And Sisters in 1973, the change from jazz-tinged blues to a country-rock amalgam seemed like it had been set in motion. Also set in place was a shift in leadership, quite possibly unintentional, from Gregg Allman to guitarist Dickey Betts.
The band's 1975 release Win, Lose Or Draw, while hardly an artistic failure, showed how far those changes had taken root - and that they weren't necessarily the best thing that could have happened to the band. Easily their weakest effort to that point, it also marked an uncomfortable point in the band's career - one which would not be remedied for well over a decade.
On the surface, Win, Lose Or Draw sometimes seems like it's a carbon copy of previous Allman Brothers successes. "Can't Lose What You Never Had" tries to be a soulful interpretation of Muddy Waters a la "Trouble No More"; "Just Another Love Song" sounds suspiciously like "Blue Sky" at times; "High Falls" could well be seen either as "Mountain Jam" or "Jessica Part Two". In some ways, these tracks showed some stagnation on the band's part.
Yet there were even bright spots in these. "High Falls" does show that the Allman Brothers Band was quite capable of writing lengthy songs and making them interesting from start to finish (though I'd have preferred more than two chord changes in the heart of the song - a criticism I guess I could have leveled against "Jessica" as well). And while Gregg Allman's role in the band might not have been as strong as it was in the beginning, he proves on the title track that he's still a very good songwriter, even if his other contribution "Nevertheless" is rather mediocre. If anything, "Win, Lose Or Draw" is much more cohesive than Betts's vocal contributions, "Just Another Love Song" and "Louisiana Lou And Three Card Monty John" - cripes, one wonders if Betts consulted Mountain for a song title like that.
Once again, this is an album that seems to be too polished sonically, though producer Johnny Sadlin (again working in conjunction with the band) does seem like he tries to add a layer of sonic grit to capture the heart of the band. Pity that the band's heart was most definitely not in the bulk of this music.
The public reacted to this album almost in the way they would have if someone farted in public - they stayed away from it. This album's comparative failure, as well as other happenings in the band (which have been well documented), helped to seal the group's fate; they would remain on hiatus until 1979. Win, Lose Or Draw proved that even with the talent level that was still in this group, you could play a bad hand once in a while - and the results could be disastrous.