The Allman Brothers Band’s second album Idlewild South was a crucial turning point for the rising sextet after an ambitious but stunted debut hurriedly recorded in New York City just a year earlier. For the follow-up, the band took roost at studios in Macon, Georgia and Miami, and the results deliver a moment when the kinetic improvisational intentions, a perfect and attentive editor in producer Tom Dowd, and the group’s relentless coast-to-coast touring combusted into a blaze of glowing beauty. It wasn’t that Idlewild was overlooked when it arrived, per se, but in ABB historical context, it ended up sandwiched between the debut and the At Fillmore East masterpiece; the latter putting much of anything else the Brothers did (and for a time, anything anyone did) in its shadow. Now, 45 years later, a Super Deluxe Edition CD/blu-ray pure audio set has brought the spotlight deservedly back.
On its face, it appears like a simple reissue of the remastered version of the Brothers’ sophomore record, with a bonus disc of the previously released live album taken from Ludlow Garage, plus a few remixed outtakes and an additional live track. Which, the cynic may say, it is. Yet, listen closer and notice the subtle details within the alternate studio take of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” about a minute longer than the original, with Dickey Bett’s exploratory intro and Duane Allman’s escalating close-out solo resembling more the Fillmore East classic. For the dedicated, that cut alone is worth the price.
Hear the Ludlow concert cleaned up to a reflective shine, giving a glistening glimpse of these road warriors in their glory, flying on electric wine at one of the group’s favorite venues; the extended coda on “Statesboro Blues” and the previously unreleased version of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” just two of the higher highlights. Find a booklet dotted with beautiful photos from the stage and studio nestled into a lovingly explanatory essay by longtime Brothers scribe John Lynskey, plus inset photos of excerpts from studio logs and tape cases from the session, (with insightful little notes like “Good Take!!” presumably written by guiding light Dowd). Deluxe editions can be dicey, requiring enough new material to really entice both the completist and the casual, and this one should be measured by the sum of its marvelous individual parts, built with care, greater than the whole.
It takes collections like this, one that puts the microscope in just the right spots, to effectively appreciate the journey of discovery for an ensemble that was constantly pushing, searching, driving for the next peak. After all, this is the Allman Brothers Band. The devil and the delight are always in the details.