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All Allman

18 DEC 13 DAVID SHANNON

During my early childhood my parents had At Fillmore East on heavy rotation around the house, and for years that album signified my touchstone for all things Allman Brothers. I memorized the long jams, the blues guitar, the hippie hillbilly sensibilities and biracial personnel depicted on the gatefold, the different moods set by each side of the double album. Now I'm discovering some of the history of the Allmans -- and Duane in particular -- that preceded that album, as well as a vault's worth of unreleased material, presented on Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective, a tasty and comprehensive box set enjoying a re-release by Rounder with beautiful new packaging for the original music and booklet.

The early Allman acts that came before the ABB had an edge that stuck with Duane throughout his short life, an edge inspired by the rough blues and rock influences that he catalyzed so well in his guitar playing and singing. The box set features tunes by the Escorts, the Allmans' first incarnation, which range from hazy instrumentals and surf rock to mesmerizing southern R&B (check out their version of Bobby Blue Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light"). Later outfit the Allman Joys, perhaps known best for the psychedelic rock and bop of "Spoonful" and the blue-eyed soul of "Mister, You're A Better Man Than I," maintains this early edge with a blend of fuzzy, bluesy, and hooky numbers featured on the release.

In addition, the set contains a handful of great tracks by Hour Glass, another early lineup, as well as recordings that span Duane's career as a session player, accompanist, live jammer, and leader of the ABB. A number of rare singles, songs unavailable on any other release, and a 72-page book with essays by Duane's daughter Galadrielle and Rolling Stone scribe Scott Schinder are also included.