(5 / 5)
For a guy who tragically died in a motorcycle accident at the tender age of 24, and who has been gone 45 years, Duane Allman made a huge impression. His lead and slide guitar playing has influenced many, many, many musicians since his death, and his legacy lives on in the music of The Allman Brothers and others.
Long overdue is a retrospective collection of Duane’s music, celebrating this icon of modern American rock music. So the release of this superb two-disc set of 36 tracks is a very welcome addition to my record collection, and I am quite sure, to many, many others’ too. Compiled by Music Republic Magazine columnist Alan Cackett, who also wrote the extensive liner notes in the booklet, the set digs deep into Duane’s short but sweet output.
Sounding as fresh and vibrant as it did back in the day, you’ll hear examples of both Duane’s virtuosity and his pioneering fretwork that lay the foundations of the Southern Rock sound that was to dominate American rock music in the 1970s. Heavily influenced by blues and r&b genres, there are also country music flavours seeping through, from what he grew up listening to in the South. He blended it all into his own distinctive style and sound, ever adventurous and ever inventive.
Duane was known to his band mates as ‘Skydog’. A founder member of The Allman Brothers Band with younger brother Gregg Allman. Along with recordings he made with his sibling and the band, Duane was an in-demand session player and several famed recordings he made with the likes of such starry company as Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Wilson Pickett, Boz Skaggs, Delaney and Bonnie, Arthur Conley and jazz flutist (yes, that is the correct spelling!) Herbie Mann are included here.
The first disc opens with the BB King Medley: “Sweet Little Angel/”It’s My Own Fault”/How Blue can You Get”, from the album “Hour Glass”, with Gregg Allman on piano and stunningly soulful vocals. Then “Born To Be Wild” with Wilson Pickett, before the astounding cut, “Dirty Old Man”, where Duane sounds like he’s been listening to Freddie King. But, who is that on the raunchy lead vocal? None other than petite Scottish songbird Lulu, that’s who. One of the best soul singers the Britsh Isles has ever produced, in my view. I have not heard this track before, and it’s great to discover here. A Delaney Bramlett and Mac Davis song. (Google Delaney and Bonnie’s daughter Becca Bramlett and check out her incredible voice, when you get a minute. You will not be sorry.)
The bluesy Dylan song “Down Along The Cove”, sung by the great Johnny Jenkins, an often overlooked left handed blues guitarist and singer who helped launch the career of Otis Redding, features some sizzling slide guitar from Duane. The Jimmie Rodgers’ country cut, “Waiting For A Train”, sees Duane pal up with the superb Boz Skaggs. Another bluegrassy acoustic cut, “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles” features some gorgeous Dobro slide from Duane, with Ronnie Hawkins on the vocal.
One of my favourite rockabilly songs, “Matchbox” penned by one of my musical heroes Carl Perkins is next; again with Ronnie Hawkins singing. Some fine twang from Duane. I can remember going to a New Year’s Eve party around 1994/95 time, and an old contact – he had been the Mayor of that town and a local politician, and he had his own show on the local BBC radio station, focused on rock and roll – from my days as a reporter and then news editor, was there.
He had some photos he was showing party guests, of him with Carl Perkins. The background looked familiar and I asked where and when they were taken. The answer stunned me. Where: In a hotel about 15 minutes from my home. When: A week or so before this party. OMG! The great Carl Perkins had been on my doorstep and I had no idea. My old pal had taken him around the country for a few UK shows, and he had stayed in this hotel to be close to our mutual friend Roger. Carl died in January 1998, aged 65.
Duane teams up with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett on “Come On In My Kitchen”, and on other cuts with Herbie Mann, John Hammond, King Curtis and on disc one, three with The Allman Brothers Band; “Dreams” from 1969, “Stand Back” from 1972 and Gregg’s “Midnight Rider”, from 1970. Plus a few tracks of his own.
Guitar bores bang on about tone. Well, they can get a load of the different tones Duane could get from his gear, and he squeezes every last ounce of emotion out of a guitar whether it was lead, rhythm or slide, electric or acoustic. He really did have magic in his fingers. Check out track 14 on the first CD; the previously mentioned “Dreams” with The Allman Brothers Band. Truly magnificent playing. Only Derek Trucks gets close to what Duane could do on slide guitar, for me.
The second disc opens with a track featuring Duane and Eric Clapton, “Mean Old World”, written by Little Walter (Jacobs) the blues harmonica great. Track three, is a bit of a wow moment; with Aretha Franklin on the Ronnie Miller song “It Ain’t Fair”, from 1969, produced by a trio of giants; Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin.
Seven Allman Brothers cuts on the second CD, to make it a total of 10 on both CDs. Duane also plays with Delaney and Bonnie again, Arthur Conley, Johnny Jenkins crops up again on to two more, the brilliant Otis Rush features on the Paul Butterfield Band’s song “You Reap What You Sow”. Only two songs penned by Duane in the collection; “Happily Married Man”, from 1974 and “Little Martha”, from 1971.
There’s a really mixed bag of stuff here, and it is all, well; how can I put this? Shit hot. That’ll do it! Not your usual rejected, inferior, 28th take versions or released-to-death out of copyright tracks, by any means. This is a real class act, and will thrill Duane fans, Allman Brothers fans, guitarists and those of us who dig great, great, great music.
Mr Cackett and the Hump Head Records folk; you did Duane proud. Poignantly, this album’s official release date was just a day before Gregg Allman passed away at the age of 69-years-old, after many years of various health issues. So this sparkling set is a fitting tribute not only to Duane Howard Allman, but also to his brother Gregory LeNoir Allman too. Thank you Duane. Thank you Greg. For the music. It lives on…
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’