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Vinyl Cave -- 1967-1969 by The Hour Glass

The story was a common one for many hometown bands in the 1960s: Get lured to the big city with hopes of becoming famous, only to be manipulated sonically, personally and/or financially by a record label/manager/Svengali. Most eventually gave up and returned home, the recorded evidence of their dreams probably lingering in cut-out bins or even recycled by the more parsimonious labels. For those who stuck it out through failure and found success down the road, those early recordings usually came back to haunt them. Gregg and Duane Allman experienced this scenario, and a pair of their failed '60s albums were repacked into The Hour Glass compilation come the early '70.

The Allmans had moved their band to Los Angeles after being signed by Liberty Records. Despite apparently liking their sound enough to offer a contract, the label immediately tried to recast them in more of a blue-eyed soul/rock mode like The Young Rascals or The Box Tops . More problematically, producer Dallas Smith also used a lot of studio musicians and songs by outside writers on their first, self-titled album. While Gregg's vocals sound as good as ever, if a bit stiff and uncomfortable on some of the songs, there's not really much of Duane's guitar apparent. The band understandably mostly ignored them for their live shows, and the album quickly disappeared.

All that being said, it's not a bad album. If the brothers hadn't gone on to fame later and spent so much time slagging their experience at Liberty, it would probably be a well-regarded, if somewhat faceless, slab of studio rock/soul. There are a few standout tracks, including Gregg's garage stomper "Got to Get Away," the early Jackson Browne composition "Cast Off All My Fears," and Ed Cobb's "Heartbeat," which actually sounds as is if it could have influenced the Dickey Betts-penned ABB song "Revival."

Things improve quite a bit on their second Liberty outing, Power of Love. The group plays more on this one, and the album sounds more like what would come later for the Allmans. Alongside Gregg's originals, there are a few much more appropriate covers, Dan Penn-Spooner Oldham and Eddie Hinton-Marlin Greene titles among them, with the only real wrong note being a stab at the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." Despite the improvement, this album also sank without a trace, leading the dejected band to break up and leave L.A. shortly thereafter -- and, of course, the label then sued for breach of contract.

To finalize the contract, the band reportedly had to agree to let the label have an album's worth of Gregg solo material. A few singles did slip out, but no more albums until this rehashing of the Liberty LPs. Gregg eventually escaped L.A. to rejoin his brother Duane in their eponymous project, which continues to this day. (United Artists 1973; available as an import CD from Beat Goes On)

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