Getty/Michael Ochs Archives
Duane Allman left us 42 years ago this week, and while he's remembered as one of rock's greatest guitar stylists -- not to mention one of its greatest tragedies, felled by a motorcycle mishap when he was just 24 -- his whole story is seldom told. The release of the seven-disc box set Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective goes a long way towards addressing that issue. Over its vast expanse, besides a crucial handful of tracks from the guitar hero's best-known affiliations, The Allman Brothers Band and Derek & The Dominos, it offers a stunning array of other projects Allman contributed to in his woefully brief lifetime. From Allman's pre-ABB groups to his far-ranging session work, this rich piece of American musical history encompasses every aspect of the six-string sultan's output, often venturing into corners previously familiar only to hardcore aficionados, and definitively displaying the multiple musical personalities of a rock & roll icon. Here are just a few of the unexpected roles in which you'll find Allman over the course of this revelatory collection.
The Garage Rocker: "Gotta Get Away" by The Allman Joys
Here's Duane in full fuzztone mode, ripping into a raw-boned rocker with the mid-'60s band he and brother Gregg fronted.
The Psychedelic Soldier: "Norwegian Wood" by The Hour Glass
After The Allman Joys came late-'60s outfit the Hour Glass, who weren't above venturing into some serious psychedelic territory, as shown by Duane's deft manipulation of an electric sitar on this ambitious Beatles cover.
The Muscle Shoals Soul Man: "Hey Jude" by Wilson Pickett
Speaking of ambitious Beatles covers, before finding fame as a blues-rocking firebrand with The Allman Brothers Band, Duane found another kind of Fame: recording with tons of top-shelf soul singers at Muscle Shoals, Alabama's legendary Fame Studio. "Wicked" Pickett's Fab Four takeover is one of many awe-inspiring examples of Allman's Muscle Shoals tenure included here.
The Session Star: "Beads of Sweat" by Laura Nyro
Even after The Allman Brothers Band's ascendance, Duane continued following his muse far and wide, bringing his guitar prowess to all manner of sessions. Here he joins some of his Muscle Shoals comrades on a trip to New York to back the sophisticated song-poetry of Laura Nyro on an album that also included everyone from jazzman Joe Farrell to Rascals frontman Felix Cavaliere.
The Jazz-Funk Jam Master: "Push Push" by Herbie Mann
Anyone who's heard some of The Allman Brothers Band's epic jams knows that Duane doesn't need a script to follow. Here he chases jazz flute giant Herbie Mann across a 10-minute track full of juicy, jazzy jamming.
As its title suggests Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is intended to lay the foundation for a new franchise of sci-fi flicks in which humans and super-intelligent apes battle for earthly supremacy. Its duty then is to explain within the span of two hours and with a modicum of credulity how exactly our simian friends might come to supplant us atop the animal kingdom. The scenario was at least partially addressed in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes the fourth entry in the original series’ convoluted and time-warped canon and while Wyatt's film draws inspiration from Conquest it is by no means a remake. Nor for that matter is related in any way to Tim Burton’s underwhelming 2001 entry. (And thank goodness for that.)
The titular rise begins as with many of the world’s great catastrophes with the actions of one highly irresponsible man. Will Rodman (James Franco) is a genetic scientist of prodigious talent and questionable ethics who works at a fancy San Francisco biotech firm called Gen-Sys (subtle!). His effort at producing a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease carries an ulterior motive: His father (John Lithgow) suffers from it and is close to entering its final stages. Will is close to a breakthrough when one of his chimpanzee test subjects goes well apesh*t causing his company’s suitably callous CEO Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo gamely spewing lines like “I run a business not a petting zoo!") to order the research facility’s entire chimp population liquidated.
Will is busy carrying out the grim mandate when he discovers that one of the test chimps has borne an offspring one he can’t bring himself to euthanize. Instead he and his primatologist girlfriend Caroline (Frieda Pinto gorgeous and superfluous) partners in appallingly bad decision-making decide to raise the infant chimp as their own naming it Caesar. Having inherited his mother’s gene modifications he shows signs of advanced intelligence and quickly develops a close bond with his adoptive human parents. But Caesar soon outgrows his domestic habitat and eventually must be shipped off to a simian “sanctuary” that is in reality anything but.
At this point we’re halfway through the film – and miles away from erudite apes and enslaved humans. To get us on track director Wyatt executes a rather audacious tonal shift transitioning abruptly from what was heretofore a fairly sober Project Nim dramatization into the balls-out apes-gone-wild summer action flick promised by the film’s trailers. His efforts are aided tremendously by his screenwriters Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa whose clever absorbing script offers just enough plausibility in the first half to make its increasingly loony second half not just palatable but downright enjoyable. Wyatt strikes a delicate thematic balance respecting the subject matter while acknowledging its inherent silliness. (Scattered throughout the film are sly nods to previous Planet of the Apes films as well as a glimpse of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.)
The silliness accelerates seemingly by the frame in Rise’s latter half as Caesar mounts a conspiracy to escape his Dickensian squalor exact revenge upon his cartoonishly malevolent captors and take his simian revolution to the streets. And it only gets crazier from there – the third act is basically a PETA wet dream. As far as cautionary tales go Rise is about as cautionary as they come.
Andy Serkis who performed all of the performance-capture work for Caesar is a marvel in the role though the question remains as to how the credit should be divvied up between him and the technicians at WETA digital who “painted” the character’s CG features. And make no mistake Caesar is very much a character – as well-rounded and fully-formed and convincing as they come and easily more compelling than any of his non-digital counterparts. Franco for his part is credible enough as a scientist who in spite of his academic credentials is a bit of a dolt (and perhaps a tad disturbed) and Lithgow tackles a relatively thankless role with grace. But the real stars are all those damn dirty apes.