Personnel: Leo Kottke, Michael Johnson (guitar); Cal Hand (steel guitar, dobro); Jeffrey Kaplan (piano); Wayne Moss, Larry Taylor, Bill Petersen (bass); Paul Lagos (drums, percussion); Kenneth Buttrey (drums); Bill Berg (percussion).
Producers: John Fahey, Denny Bruce, Michael Sunday.
Compilation producer: Jerry Roche.
Recorded between 1970 & 1975. Includes liner notes by Jerry Roche.
Personnel: Leo Kottke (guitar); Cal Hand (guitar, steel guitar, dobro); Michael "Mike Dee" Johnson (guitar); Paul Lagos (drums, percussion); Kenny Buttrey (drums); Bill Berg (percussion).
Recording information: 1970-1975.
Arrangers: John Fahey; Leo Kottke.
The first of two discs (released simultaneously and sporting nearly identical covers) recaps Leo Kottke's early years from 1970-1975 when he recorded for the Capitol label. As is indicated by the title, this features only Kottke's amazing fretwork, bypassing the vocals that much of his audience dealt with in a grin-and-bear-it fashion. There is no previously unreleased material (as there is on the companion disc Instrumentals: The Best of the Chrysalis Years), but many of these tracks are difficult to come by on CD, and having a compilation of Kottke's instrumental music -- much of it totally solo -- makes for a cohesive -- some might say definitive -- portrait of the guitarist's jaw-dropping skills. Incorporating strains of country, blues, folk, bluegrass, gospel, and even classical (his version of Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is astonishing), Kottke's style is immediately recognizable and totally distinctive. Sure, he's fast and technically proficient, but the emotion and soul communicated through his acoustic guitar is mind-blowing. Even on "June Bug" from Mudlark, his 1970 debut Capitol release, the guitarist's intricate finger-picking/hard-strumming sound is established. Although his approach would ultimately lead others to new age, there is nothing here that is atmospheric or merely background music. Beautiful, difficult, quirky, but never flashy for the sake of show, Kottke's singular style remains vital and influential to everyone who picks up an acoustic guitar. With all six of the albums recorded for Capitol more or less equally represented, this is as good a place as any to start a Kottke collection. Considering his 30-plus-year career though, there is lots more to explore. ~ Hal Horowitz