Changing With The Times

Originally posted June 11, 2007

Well, I went to a ball game yesterday. I headed out to Rob’s, about fifty miles away, and then he and I drove to the Twin Cities, where we connected with Schultz and went to see the Twins at the Metrodome. The local boys did all right, taking a 6 to 3 game from Washington. We sat in the upper deck along the first base line, which was a good location.

Nothing seems to underline the passage of time, in a way, than watching a professional sport and realizing how young the athletes are. As each Twin came to bat yesterday, his date of birth showed up on the scoreboard. We began to compare notes as to where the three of us had been on those dates. We talked about 1981, 1979, 1980, 1975, all years for us of either college or early jobs. We felt old. Finally, Jeff Cirillo came to the plate, and his birth date of September 23, 1969, flashed on the screen.

We compared notes: Rob had just entered his senior year at St. Cloud Cathedral, while I was a junior at St. Cloud Tech across town. Schultz was a freshman at Cathedral (as was Rick, who couldn’t make it yesterday). What happened in 1969? Schultz asked, as Cirillo took his turn at bat. We all threw out memories: the first moon landing, Woodstock, the Manson murders, Chappaquiddick.

And we all felt old again.

The passage of time can make you feel like that. All too frequently, things that you thought were verities in your life shift and evolve, leaving both your external and internal landscapes different and sometimes alien.

I imagine that’s especially true for musicians, as listening habits change and styles evolve. And that was doubly true, I think, for musicians from the early 1970s as the decade entered its last few years. The album I’m sharing today is Memories, a 1978 recording by Bonnie Bramlett, by then several years divorced from Delaney, with whom she’d made some of the more remarkable records of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Memories was Bonnie’s fourth solo release since splitting from Delaney. Her first, Sweet Bonnie Bramlett, came out on Columbia in 1973. A move to Capricorn brought her more sympathetic production and, I would guess, more attention from the label. In 1975, she released It’s Time, which included backing from several members of the Allman Brothers Band as well as Capricorn’s studio regulars; Lady’s Choice in 1976 put her in front of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section and some of the Capricorn regulars and Allman Brothers members. Both It’s Time and Lady’s Choice are very good records and are available on CD.

Bramlett’s last recording for Capricorn, and her last for many years, was Memories, which has never been released on CD. A few copies of the LP are listed as available through

It’s an interesting album. Recorded at Capricorn as well as at studios in Los Angeles and, oddly, Montreal, it keeps Bramlett framed in the style she helped to define ten years earlier: rootsy, soulful, with tinges here and there of country and gospel. She sounds great, and the band behind her is good, even though for the first time, she was backed by none of the legendary stalwarts of southern rock; the names in the credits are not at all familiar.

But 1978 was an odd time to put out a rootsy, soulful album with country and gospel overtones. The audience that had found a home in those types of grooves between five and ten years earlier had moved on. Some of them were digging into the nascent punk and new wave scenes. A few had moved toward the middle of the road and soft rock. And millions were heading out to the dance floor, eager to be a version of John Travolta or Karen Lynn Gorney.

Very few people, it seemed, were interested in what Bonnie Bramlett had to say. And after Memories was released and did not sell well, Bramlett didn’t have much to say for a long time. She didn’t release another album until I’m Still The Same in 2002.

Memories has its moments. The opener, “Holdin’ On To You,” shuffles along as neatly as did many of the numbers Bramlett recorded with her former husband. And two covers work nicely, too. The first is a reworking of the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” that ends up in a sweet gospelly groove, and the second is a nice turn on Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

That wasn’t literally Bramlett’s problem, of course, She could find her way home. In fact, musically, she’d never left. But by the time 1978 rolled around, not many listeners were willing to stay there with her. Still, Memories is a fun album, and, even if it’s not quite as engaging as Bramlett’s earlier work with Delaney and on her own, is well worth a listen or two.

Bonnie Bramlett – Memories [1978]


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