When it was released as a CD boxset in 2013, Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective, was a critical and commercial success. Now, from October 28 2016, it’s out again in limited edition 14-LP vinyl version.

With 129 tracks and a 56-page booklet that includes rare photos, plus essays by journalist Scott Schinder and Duane's daughter, Galadrielle Allman, it’s a superb collector’s piece as well as invaluable document of electric guitar’s most revered slide player.

Duane Allman

Skydog goes way beyond Duane’s famed cuts with the Allman Brothers Band and Eric Clapton in Derek and the Dominos. It includes performances by Duane’s early bands The Escorts, Allman Joys, Hour Glass, 31st of February, The Bleus and more, as well as tracks planned for his never-released solo album. A massive treat is the selected collection of Duane’s session work – celebrated cameos on Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude”, Aretha Franklin’s “The Weight”, hot cuts with Ronnie Hawkins, Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie, Otis Rush and more, plus an extended live jam with the Grateful Dead.

Allman cut so much music in his brief, stellar career, Skydog isn’t even comprehensive, but as an aural timeline of the flourishing of a true guitar great, it’s unbeatable.

Gibson.com talked exclusively to Skydog’s key curators: producer Bill Levenson and Duane’s daughter Galadrielle, author of the touching biography Please Be With Me (a signed copy of which is in each Super Deluxe edition of the boxset, limited to 50 only)...

How long did the Skydog boxset take to compile?

Bill Levenson: “The idea started back in 1994. I was working on a whole series of projects... Eric Clapton’s Crossroads boxset, Allman Brothers’ Dreams compilation, the anniversary edition of Layla, plus a bunch of Allman Brothers reissues like Live at Ludlow Garage, the Fillmore concerts remix album... This was right in the middle, but got shelved. When I heard Galadrielle was working on her book, I called her up and said we should revisit the boxset. Originally, we wanted to release the Skydog CD box and her book simultaneously, which didn’t quite happen, but it was close.”

Galadrielle Allman: “In some ways, Bill and I came separately to the table. I was the one charged with sourcing the photographs and writing something. But I also had a say in the music in a way that I didn’t anticipate. That was really an education. That happened in the home stretch of writing my book, and it really helped.

“Just to have all the chronological tapes from my dad’s life there was a huge gift. It was more vast than I originally thought, and to understand how Bill was putting it together was really good.”

Duane Allman

Did the book research influence what tracks you decided to include on Skydog? Duane’s since been revealed to sometimes have mixed feelings about some session work...

Bill Levenson: “No. I didn’t read the book when I was putting this together. It was a case of ignorance being bliss. But, other than The Bleus’ tracks [an early band of Duane’s] and a few others, I don’t feel there were too many places where Duane sounded ambivalent, if that’s the word.

“I think Duane had such a signature, he brought such an instinct for fitting into any track, that I think that really shone through. Whatever the song, Duane was just working with what he had, what he could add.”

Galadrielle Allman: “His work on Layla, he loved. We already knew that. But he also loved the work he did with Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. You can tell these were people he thought he had very little chance of even meeting, and to get to actually play and record with them was a huge thing for my dad. King Curtis, too. They became really good friends and my dad learned so much from him. All the people I spoke to would say that my dad always brought stories with him about where he’d been working, what he’d just done, so these sessions really did mean a lot.”

Duane Allman

So it was a balancing act choosing the best of Duane Allman, but also the important milestones?

Bill Levenson: “Exactly. There are some choices in here that are for completists, no question. There are some we even committed to without hearing them, because we believed they’d progress the storyline. The Bleus tracks are maybe not as Duane Allman-centric as we’d like, but they’re part of the story. With 130 tracks, not every one is gonna be a stone cold classic!”

Galadrielle Allman: “It’s easy to forget how young he was, and how quickly all of this music happened. He really dipped into every genre of American music by the time he was 20, which is quite remarkable. There’s never be another like him. The only way he could have had that kind of output is because he never stopped, he had a very strong work ethic. Some people may have painted him as some sort of lackadaisical hippy or something, but that so was not the case. He was a hard working prodigy, truly.”

Bill Levenson: “By including so much, what you hear is that acceleration. From doing the soul sessions to the Allmans, 1969, he finds his voice – the guitar voice we all know – very quickly. I hear a confidence that just explodes. It goes on into 1970, with the Allmans’ Idlewild South album, the Layla album... By this point, Duane’s not ‘channelling’ anybody, he’s got his own style, his own personality, it’s pretty extraordinary.”

What are the lesser known tracks you’re particularly pleased to have on Skydog?

Bill Levenson: “When we ran into the Delaney & Bonnie material, I was amazed. The out-take of ‘Gift of Love’, I found it unbelievable that was unissued. There was a version released, but not this one. ‘Gift of Love’ was actually going to be the title of the boxset for a while.

“And Delaney & Bonnie & Friends’ ‘Poor Elijah/Tribute to Johnson Medley’, the live track, is incredible. Not just Duane, but everyone included. Joe Cocker and Leon Russell, there. That captures a moment in time, where people just collaborate on the spot and come up with something amazing.”

Galadrielle Allman: “There are so many, but I agree with Delaney & Bonnie, I don’t think there’s anyone else who brought out of him what they did. Those tracks are so purely joyful.

“But, of course, I have to say I love ‘Please be with Me’, the song I named my book after. It’s such a beautiful performance, open hearted and warm. But, yeah, it’s tough for me to choose. I just love him playing just the tiniest bit, a small lick behind Aretha signing on ‘The Weight’. It’s tasteful, restrained, that call and response to her vocal. It’s tricky to pick – that’s why we included so many tracks."

Duane Allman

Galadrielle, you still have two of your father’s Gibson Les Pauls – they must be very precious to you?

Galadrielle Allman: “Yes, they’re so precious to me, because they’re really the only things of his I have. The guitars were by far his most precious objects. He wasn’t a materialistic person. He lived like a gipsy, he didn’t have a home when he passed, so the guitars were really it.

“He pursued tone in a very serious way, and when he traded one for the other in the pursuit of that. He had more than one at the end, but most of time he really just used one guitar. It just changed from the Goldtop to the two sunbursts.

“He had the Gibson SG that Dickey (Betts) gave him, but that was really just so he didn’t have to retune for some slide parts. But it was certainly a very different ethos to stars of today, who have a roomful! These were his instruments, and I feel the need to protect and preserve them, and let other people see that. So that’s why they’re in museums.

Duane Allman

“Currently, the more faded sunburst is with the Bill Graham travelling show or museum – I thought that was apt, as Bill Graham really gave the Allmans such a big break.

“And the darkburst with his name on the back is with the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle. It sits between a guitar of Jimi Hendrix’s and one of Eric Clapton’s. I like that. To me, that feels where he belongs. And that’s the most beautiful guitar.”

Duane Allman photos by John Gellman

All editions of the Duane Allman Skydog vinyl boxset are available via PledgeMusic .