|Recordings: Leo Kottke: The Best (1976)|
Re-release Liner Notes
by John Tobler
After his successful period with Capitol Records, Leo signed with Chrysalis in 1976, becoming the British label's first American signing, and commenting at the time that he was looking forward to dealing with individual enthusiasts who would not tamper with his ideas, rather than with a massive corporation. He also vowed to change the habits of a lifetime when recording his eponymous debut album for Chrysalis by preparing the material in advance, and to revert to his starting point of a purely instrumental collection. When Leo Kottke was released in 1977, it became his eighth US chart album and is now reissued by BGO (BGOCD257). 1978 produced Burnt Lips (BGOCD259), for which he had decided to try some vocalising again, but it was his last US chart album for more than a decade despite including a memorable cover version of the remarkable "Sonora's Death Row," a song written by Kevin Blackie Farrell, plus excerpts from something he called "Terry's Movie" -- "The Train and the Gate" was one and "The Credits: Out-Takes" was another, titles which presumably refer to his contributions to the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack of the film directed by Terence Malick, Days of Heaven, starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard.
1979 brought Balance (BGOCD263), produced by Nashville legend and Area Code 615 drummer Kenny Buttrey, which was described at the time as "a new departure, with Kottke deciding to work as a rhythm section." It also included two diverse cover versions, Buddy Holly's "Learning The Game," and Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen's "Embryonic Journey." Kottke noted at the time: "If there were not other considerations, I used to think that I could only make guitar albums, but I felt the need to work with a rhythm section. I enlisted Kenny's aid mainly because of our past musical association, years ago, which was a very successful collaboration" (Buttrey had played on Mudlark).
Live in Europe (BGOCD265) was a solo album without other musicians, released by Chrysalis in 1980, and recorded, as its title suggests, on the pervious year's European tour -- he also appeared again at that year's Cambridge Folk Festival. By this time, Kottke has amassed a number of awards for his work, including "Best Acoustic Guitarist" for five years running from Guitar Player magazine and a German Grammy Award for Best Instrumentalist in 1977. Chrysalis surprisingly claimed that 1981's Guitar Music (BGOCD261) was Kottke's first instrumental album since 1969's 6 and 12 String Guitar (it certainly wasn't, but that's water under the bridge now). Guitar Music opened with a track confusingly titled "Part Two," and included a ten and a half minute medley titled "Side One Suite," as well as two tunes written by Ry Cooder, "Available Space" and "Perforated Sleep."
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