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Rock Reads: Les Brers: Kirk West's Photographic Journey with the Brothers by Kirk West

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

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The brothers in question here are the Allman Brothers, whom West spent twenty years handling the tour management duties for. That gave him unprecedented access to the band and here in this coffee table-style book he shares about 900 of his photos, most of which have never been published before. West's time with the band began in 1973 so fans should note that there are no photos here of Duane Allman or Berry Oakley, who died in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Longtime front men Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts understandably get a high percentage of lens time, but everybody is here, including members of spin-off and associated bands like Great Southern, Sea Level and Govt. Mule, with lots of blues and rock stars making "cameo" appearances too. West presents the photos chronologically and includes captions for a lot of the shots, and not all of the photos are music-related. One page holds five photos shot in 1987 that show Betts wearing camo and sporting a beard and boot black around his eyes, his get-up for a day of bow hunting in Florida, and in one of those photos he has a grin on his face that makes him look like a backwoods crazy from a horror film. Another amusing segment of the book also focuses on Betts and members of the Dickey Betts Band; shot in 1986 and subtitled "Fashions by WTF, hair styles by No You Didn't," the group of photos shows the band wearing "What were we thinking?" hair and clothes that were typical of the era. A nice lengthy segment is devoted to the time around the release and tour for the Allman Brothers Band Seven Turns album, showing the band in rehearsal, on stage, riding motorcycles in South Dakota and most impressively, in a series of portraits. The book is packed with similar segments as West presents photographic memento after memento, documenting everything from MTV sessions to an appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" to the band's gig at President Clinton's inaugural ball. West was snapping pictures right through the band's final performance at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in 2014, and the fact that the ABB is now officially retired makes this collection all the more poignant and desirable.

Order the book here.

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