The master tapes for Randall Bramblett's first two solo albums from the mid-'70s, That Other Mile and Light of the Night, remained locked in the Polygram vaults until Bramblett was able to "lease" them and reissue the albums in remastered form decades later, combined on a single CD. An appropriate one-word response is: finally! Multi-instrumentalist 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 1975's That Other Mile for Polydor. Tyrell got the twenty-something Georgian an A-list of studio players -- including the Brecker Brothers -- with keyboardist Chuck Leavell and other top Capricorn musicians also making key contributions. Bramblett's songs deserved the expert treatment. 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 to the table his skills as an arranger and instrumentalist during the heyday of Capricorn-style "Southern rock." His songs were literate and thoughtful, and the music surrounding his often heartfelt vocals was as powerful as the words being sung. Somehow both shimmering and swampy, That Other Mile's opening title track is a deeply layered meld of horn-accented electric funk and jazz with wah-wah and phased guitars, a stereo-panned female gospel chorus, and Bramblett's sax solo cutting through the middle, but his lyrics are searching and philosophical, concerned with life's randomness that stalks both the weak and the powerful.
Bramblett rocks out Jerry Lee Lewis style on "Crazy World" and his wry observations of political corruption on a Caribbean island match Randy Newman at his best, but there is true street-level desperation in "You Caint," and "Drifting into a Woman's Arms" uses a Biblical metaphor to speak with a universality that transcends religion. Light of the Night, recorded the following year in New Orleans and again produced by Tyrell, is a bit more stripped down, but the material and arrangements are just as strong, if not more so, with the harrowing, sad, and ultimately heartbreaking title track deserving special mention. Three songs -- "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 here, particularly on the latter two tracks, arguably serves the lyrics better than the Sea Level versions. These two extraordinary albums reached only a cult audience in their day, and even now -- with his solo career resumed on New West in the 21st century -- Randall Bramblett remains unknown to many. He deserved a bigger audience then, and he still does.