Allman Brothers Box Set Spans Entire Career With Over Six Hours of Music

The Allman Brothers Band | Trouble No More:50th Anniversary Collection | (UMe)

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Dreams, the 1989’s four CD Allman Brothers box set, told a hell of an amazing story by tracking the band from its pre-fame incarnations of the Allman Joys, Hourglass and others, through solo music from Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts. But it wasn’t the whole tale. 

For better or worse, this updated and expanded overview ignores any non-Allman Brothers music (ie:no solo or early recordings), concentrating on only the collective’s work. Following the Capricorn material that formed the vast majority of Dreams’ track list and takes up three and a half discs here, listeners of the somewhat inaccurately named 50th Anniversary Collection (they called it quits in 2014 after 45 years and 2019 was the official 50th) get a fuller picture of later work for the Arista, Epic and Peach labels. There is even music from October 28, 2014’s farewell concert. In terms of rarities, it’s tough to beat a 1973 Watkins Glen “Mountain Jam” with the Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and The Band’s Robbie Robertson adding guitars to a somewhat shambling if historically worthwhile version. 

That lengthened overview now requires an extra fifth disc to adequately convey the full history. This box’s 61 tracks include seven previously officially unreleased recordings—all worth hearing– to hook those who already own all the ABB albums and even the previous box. In its way though, it’s a purer distillation of the Macon based act’s extensive and often confusing career arc. An exhaustive 9,000 word biography by co-compiler John P. Lynskey helps even those who have followed this path understand the myriad personnel changes (such as detailing the assistance of two guitarists– Jack Pearson and Jimmy Herring–who never recorded their contributions in the studio) that found the Brothers alternately reaching musical highs and occasional lows. 

And there were plenty of both. Not surprisingly the producers cherry picked only four of the better tracks from two disappointing Arista early 80s collections, arguably the most dispiriting music of the ABB’s tenure. Disc four follows the 1990-2000 decade the collective spent on the Epic label, nicely whittling down some inconsistent albums to nine solid tracks. It’s peppered with three live songs including a rare non-Gregg vocal on Jack Pearson’s “I’m Not Crying.” Disc five covers the final years with about half its playing time devoted to heretofore unavailable live material recorded at the band’s later stands at NYC’s Beacon Theatre. 

It’s easy to get lost in the details of the Allman Brothers Band’s 45 year run, especially as those changes impacted the music. Still, the confluence of soul, jazz, country and of course blues with the jams that at their best were mind blowing examples of just how sympathetic and telepathic the players were, is what makes them deserving of a career overview as definitive and expensive as this. Even with the inevitable repetitions from the ’89 release, there is enough remarkable and timeless music here to satisfy both hardcore fans and those less familiar with a group who, through their many ups and downs, remains legendary in the history of American rock.  

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