"My Cross to Bear," by Gregg Allman, with Alan Light
The Allman Brothers have been center stage in the canon of classic rock since they sprouted from the South in the early 1970s. James Cameron credits the Allman Brothers, among others, for the inspiration behind the band in "Almost Famous." In other words, this isn't a ditty of a band. So when Gregg Allman took to penning his memoir, people knew it would be reverberating with the predictable vibes and vices of a rock-star memoir. Drugs, sex, and rock and roll, party every day, etc. But reviewers have caught nuances in Allman's tale, some good and some bad, that set this rock memoir apart from the rest.
Dwight Garner of The New York Times is not surprised by the "comedy and excess," nor is he shocked to learn of the "lode of heartbreak" and sexual exploits that riddled Allman's life. However, "the author is aware that he is a difficult man," Garner writes, "one who has behaved at times like a jackass." This self-awareness and reflection did not go unnoticed by others. "Given the celebrity memoir genre often is rife with hyped revisionism," writes Marco R. della Cava from USAToday, "'My Cross to Bear' carries a welcome seal of honesty." Scott McLennan of The Boston Globe echoes that sentiment, noting how "after kicking booze and drugs, Allman achieves a spiritual serenity, which establishes the tale’s overall tone but does not blind him to the ravages along the way." Though the chorus of reviews sing of Allman's honesty, Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post adds his own, more cynical verse: "Now 64, the musician has a new liver, a functioning career and a laid-back attitude. 'I’m not a judgmental person,' he claims. Actually, 'My Cross to Bear' is full of judgments, they’re just not delivered with any passion. Rather than transcend his grudges, Allman seems simply to have lost the energy to sustain them."
"Who is that Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan," by David Dalton
This is a book about a man that needs no introduction. The biographer, thankfully, writes with this in mind. Two things to note: One, David Dalton is a shameless fanboy of Dylan's oeuvre. Two, he writes without direct permission from and access to his subject. These two traditional flaws in the foundation of any biography are, quite surprisingly, turned into strengths in Dalton's "Who is that Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan."
Robin Finn of The New York Times is delighted by the anecdotes and insinuations that Dalton uses to paint a portrait of the elusive icon: "Because he [Dalton] cops to the fact that he’s not going to succeed, his attempts at exposing, debunking and celebrating the essence of Robert Zimmerman’s Dylan-ness, and vice versa, make for an intriguing, often amusing, vision quest." Kirkus Reviews calls Dalton's work "lively and literate," noting how he "offers less a straight biography than an inspired, imaginative investigation into Dylan’s many sides." And despite - or perhaps because of - the distance between himself and his subject, Dalton uses Dylan's music and lyrics as a tool to reflect the man himself. "For all of the shelf-busting Dylan literature that’s out there," writes Colin Fleming of The Washington Post, "it’s rare that you find a book in which the music is discussed as adroitly as any aspect of the life." Dalton reveals himself as a "penetrating critic," drawing "sage points" from Dylan's life and songs.