Duane Allman – Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective Encore Edition – Rounder Records/ Rhino Custom Products 11661-9178-2 (Distr. by Concord) (7 CDs) – 1965-1971 (11/5/13) ****½:
(Duane Allman – guitar, dobro; with accompanying artists including- The Escorts; The Allman Joys; Hour Glass; 31st of February; Clarence Carter; Wilson Pickett; Laura Lee; Spencer Wiggins; Arthur Conley; The Lovelles; Aretha Franklin; Soul Survivors; King Curtis; The Sweet Inspirations; Barry Goldberg Blues Band; Otis Rush; Boz Scaggs; Ronnie Hawkins; Lulu; Johnny Jenkins; John Hammond; Doris Duke; Laura Nyro; Delaney and Bonnie; Ella Brown; Bobby Lance; Eric Clapton (Derek and the Dominos); Sam Samudio; King Curtis; Grateful Dead; Herbie Mann; & The Allman Brothers Band)
The initial pressing of Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective (released March 19, 2013) was made in a numbered 10,000 deluxe version with the discs and booklet packed inside a gold velour-lined box in the shape of a guitar case. It included a replica of Duane’s guitar pick, a Skydog sticker and had vellum disc sleeves. Needless to say it sold out in a matter of weeks, leaving most Duane Allman fans in the lurch. It soon sold online on auction sites for highly inflated prices.
Concord Music Group, through Rounder Records has come to the rescue of a motivated buying public by releasing an “encore” edition that includes the booklet and discs boxed in a standard cardboard box. The most important factor is that we now have the same music – 129 tracks, with 33 of them previously either unreleased, or unissued before on CD.
What makes this retrospective so astounding is that it documents what is roughly a six year period in which Duane Allman recorded (1965-1971), either as a leader with his teenage groups with brother Gregg, followed by a brief but highly productive period backing major R&B, soul, blues, and even a jazz artist (Herbie Mann). We also get to hear his output with the Allman Brothers Band, for which Duane is most famous. Starting in high school at around age 18, Duane was a man on a mission, mastering the slide guitar, and developing in short order his rock and blues bona fides. His recording career was so short, yet his influence so profound, that he was voted second only to Jimi Hendrix in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists. An incredible feat for a musician who died at age 24 in a motorcycle accident…. Even more mind boggling is the fact that Duane was largely self-taught. He could listen to a track just a few times, and then was ready to record with the likes of Eric Clapton, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, Aretha Franklin, or join in a jam with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
He will always be remembered for his slashing inimitable guitar solos on “Loan Me a Dime,” “Layla,” and convincing Wilson Pickett to tackle “Hey Jude.” When a man, barely in his ’20s, can bring out the best in a group of soul singers as significant as Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett, and Arthur Conley, it was quite obvious to producers like Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records, that here was a musical genius, who could up the ante of any session.
Duane loved motorcycles almost as much as his musical passions, and although he could only imagine his life span to be short, he filled his six years of recording and touring like a man possessed. He was a constant presence at the Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, before relocating to Macon, Georgia, and the Criteria Studios in Miami, with the Allman Brothers Band.
Nitpickers may debate whether some tracks have been left off, but few can argue that Duane’s daughter, Galadrielle (who was very young when Duane passed), has not done a commendable job obtaining the best sources for the earliest work, or that the remastering done by Paul Blakemore is not top notch with the source material available. Highlights are many. The most fascinating are mostly rarities. Including:– The teenage Escorts surf take of “What’d I Say” (1965) – Allman Joys’ psychedelic ’66 versions of “Spoonful,” “Gotta Get Away” – The Hour Glass’ sublime vocal blend on “I’ve Been Trying” (1967) – Duane’s electric sitar on The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” (1968) – Hour Glass B.B King medley highlighted by Duane’s guitar and Gregg’s soulful singing (1968) – 31st of February’s early rendition of “Melissa” (1968) – Clarence Carter’s take on “Light My Fire” with strings and horns (1968) – Wilson Pickett’s transformative “Hey Jude” with Duane on fire (1968) – Arthur Conley’s “That Can’t Be My Baby,” which would have been pedestrian without Duane’s guitar prowess (1968) – Aretha’s “The Weight” made special by Duane’s slide guitar (1969) – King Curtis’ sax solo on “Foot Pattin” (1969) – Experiencing Duane’s lead vocals on “Goin’ Down Slow” ( 1969) – Otis Rush’s production (horns, guitar, vocals) on “Reap What You Sow” (1969) – Ronnie Hawkins’ rock-a-billy on “Matchbox,” “Who Do You Love (1969) – Lulu’s “Dirty Old Man” rescued by Duane (1969) – Johnny Jenkins’ “Rollin’ Stone” with Duane’s slide guitar (1969) – John Hammond’s Chicago style blues “Cryin’ for My Baby” (1969) – Revisiting Delaney and Bonnie on “Soul Shake” (1970) – Laura Nyro and Duane Allman on “Beads of Sweat” (1970) – Ronnie Hawkins “Sick and Tired”- phenomenal guitar by Duane (1970) – Duane & Jerry Garcia, one of a kind meeting on “Sugar Magnolia” (1971) – Herbie Mann and Duane Allman soul jazz summit on “Push, Push,” Spirit in the Dark,” and “What’d I Say” (1971) Just 3 months prior to Duane’s passing away…
At $81.49, including shipping on Amazon, this is a must purchase for the holidays. It is a chance to experience a guitar master who left us way too soon… RIP, Duane… —Jeff Krow