The 1992 compilation The Best of Doug Sahm's Atlantic Sessions -- released that year in the U.S. on Rhino, and followed three years later with a reissue by Sequel in the U.K. -- culls 19 highlights from the sessions that yielded two records in 1973: the highly-regarded Doug Sahm and Band and Texas Tornado. Sahm signed to Atlantic in 1972 at the behest of the label's co-owner and resident producer Jerry Wexler, who was a fan of the Sir Douglas Quintet, and was anxious to work with its leader once the band took a hiatus at the end of their contract with Mercury. Wexler, along with co-producer Arif Mardin, assembled an all-star band in New York for Sahm -- featuring such luminaries as Flaco Jimenez, Dr. John, David "Fathead" Newman, David Bromberg, and Bob Dylan -- who were augmented by several of Sir Doug's favorite hometown players (including his mainstay Augie Meyers). These sessions were far-ranging and included too much material to fit onto one record, but Sahm kept recording for Atlantic, reconvening with a version of the Quintet, who were billed as the Sir Doug Band, to cut material that wound up on Texas Tornado, along with outtakes from the New York sessions. While both of these records featured Sahm in top form and generated classics like "(Is Anybody Going To) San Antone," "Texas Tornado," and "Nitty Gritty," they didn't fare well on the charts, and Sahm left the label after two albums, with the records remaining out of print for many years. This compilation was the first time this material was issued on CD, though two of the aforementioned tracks did appear on the 1990 compilation The Best of Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet 1968-1975, and it's a pretty good summary of the best of the two Atlantic records, capturing the basic loose, freewheeling nature of the sets, and featuring many of the best songs, not just the three mentioned above, but also "Hard Way," "Chicano," "Dealer's Blues," "San Francisco FM Blues," "Juan Mendoza," "I Get Off," and the Dylan-penned "Wallflower." However, many of the cuts that didn't make the cut, such as "It's Gonna Be Easy" or "Me and Paul," would have been better selections than what did make it here. Furthermore, the four previously unreleased tracks -- "Box Car Hobo," "The Image of Me," "Blue Horizon," and "A Song About Myself" -- are good, but compared to the wealth of tremendous unreleased material on the comprehensive, 2003 double-disc Rhino Handmade set, The Genuine Texas Groover, it's strange that these were selected for inclusion here, since every cut on that set bests those here. (It's doubly strange that none of these four songs made that collection, either, since it was designed to be a nearly-complete retrospective of Sahm's Atlantic recordings, but perhaps they were left behind due to a lack of space, or discographical error; either way, the outtakes and alternates on The Genuine Texas Groover are better than those here, yet completists will certainly want this collection for these rarities). Nevertheless, the compilation is a good one, covering one of Sahm's best periods, and if you own neither Doug Sahm and Band or Texas Tornado, this is worth having -- although it also true that anybody interested in this will certainly be more satisfied by the embarrassment of riches on the peerless The Genuine Texas Groover. If you're going to sample the Atlantic sessions, spend the time and money and hunt that set down instead, but this one will do in a pinch (and it certainly was a fine substitute in the years before that double-disc collection existed).
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine