Before rebooting his solo career in the 21st century to considerable critical acclaim, before spending 16 years touring and recording with Steve Winwood and a new edition of Traffic, before joining Southern jazz-rock-funk fusion outfit Sea Level, multi-instrumentalist Randall Bramblett cut his first two solo albums in the mid-'70s for Polydor: 1975's That Other Mile and 1976's Light of the Night. Bramblett had been a Capricorn studio musician and key member of the expansive lineup featured on 1974's live Gregg Allman Tour when producer (and later singer) Steve Tyrell took him into N.Y.C.'s Electric Lady Studios to cut That Other Mile with an A-list of studio players including Allman Brothers/Sea Level keyboardist Chuck Leavell and other top Capricorn musicians. Light of the Night was recorded the following year in New Orleans and again produced by Tyrell. The lineup of musicians was a bit more stripped down than on the preceding LP (but still featured Leavell), although the material and arrangements were just as strong, if not more so, with the harrowing, sad, and ultimately heartbreaking title track deserving special mention. An observant and sensitive singer/songwriter with a gift for touching lyrics and witty wordplay, Bramblett loved R&B, jazz, funk, blues, and gospel in his bones, and also brought his skills as an arranger and instrumentalist to his literate and thoughtful songs, and the music surrounding his often heartfelt vocals was as powerful as the words being sung. Three songs on Light of the Night -- "King Grand," with Allen Toussaint on piano, escalates two-bit hustling to something a bit larger; "Living in a Dream" observes a subject floating in his own world, disengaged from reality; and "This Could Be the Worst" touches on a favorite Bramblett theme, the quest for spiritual transcendence in our harsh, regimented material world -- would be revisited by Sea Level on 1978's On the Edge, but the music on Light of the Night, particularly on "Living in a Dream" and "This Could Be the Worst," arguably serves the lyrics better than the Sea Level versions. Both That Other Mile and Light of the Night reached only a cult audience in their day, but thankfully they have been reissued decades later as a two-fer compilation on Bramblett's own Blue Ceiling label, and they deserve belated attention now.
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