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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1974 | Takoma

Leo Kottke's wide-release debut came about after he sent a cassette to John Fahey's Takoma label. Not surprisingly, it recalls Fahey's work in a number of respects: the synthesis of numerous influences from blues, pop, classical, and folk styles, the weirdly titled instrumentals, even the tongue-in-cheek liner notes. Kottke's brand of virtuosity, however, is more soothing and easy on the ear than Fahey's. It's far from sappy, though, the rich and resonant picking intimating some underlying restlessness, like peaceful open fields after a storm. Establishing much of the territory Kottke was to explore throughout his career, this release was also one of his most popular, eventually selling over 500,000 copies. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 1, 1990 | Private Music

Leo Kottke has always been known primarily as a guitarist, yet it has been a number of years since he's released a solo guitar record, which is what makes One Guitar, No Vocals welcome. Kottke is at his most impressive at his most intimate, turning out alternately gentle and intense solo guitar pieces. No matter how complex the music is -- and it is, at minimum, moderately complex -- Kottke pulls it off with grace, making it all seem easy. And that's the curious thing about One Guitar, No Vocals: The music is calm enough to function as background music, yet it reveals much more when examined closely. Of course, that's the key to all of Kottke's best work, and while this album isn't as exciting or revelatory as his earliest records, it's still a joy to hear a master at the top of his form. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Blue Note Records

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 /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 1, 1990 | Private Music

Working with former Prince sideman David Z, Leo Kottke comes up with one of his most unusual records with Standing in My Shoes. David Z doesn't necessarily bring Kottke toward funk, but the spare rhythm section gives the guitarist a stronger sense of groove than ever before, and Kottke really shines in such a setting. His solos are loose and swinging, and even his trio of vocal numbers have a charming, carefree quality. Standing in My Shoes does bog down occasionally, particularly when the execution is more compelling than the material, but on the whole, it is one of his more fascinating records of the '90s. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1991 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

3 Stars - Good - "...The occasional use of flute and strings hints at the dawning of New Age music but mostly it's enough to be dazzled by the sheer audacity of the playing." © TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1981 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

4 Stars - Excellent - "...a return to his stock-in-trade, a combination of enigmatic originals and lovely versions of Ry Cooder's `Available Space,' the Everlys' `All I Have To Do Is Dream' and Santo & Johnny's ethereal `Sleep Walk'..." © TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 31, 1994 | Private Music

In terms of musical mastery, few instruments deserve more attention and respect than the twelve-string guitar, and few masters of that instrument deserve that same attention and respect more than Leo Kottke. From his lyrics ("Room at the Top of the Stairs") to his playing ("Wonderland by Night"), this 1994 Private Music release, well produced by Rickie Lee Jones, is at turns humorous, haunting, and highly enjoyable. © Jeff Crooke /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released September 30, 1988 | BMG Music

Funky songs and staccato picking make this a very good album. ~ Mark A. Humphrey
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Rock - Released January 1, 2003 | Blue Note Records

Leo Kottke's voice isn't for everyone, and has led a number of guitar freaks to borrow Frank Zappa's unkind phrase: "Shut up 'n play yer guitar." Instrumentals: The Best of the Chrysalis Years will speak to these fans, as it presents 18 pieces, from "Airproofing" in 1976 to "Memories Are Made of This" in 1983. To spice the package up a bit, the folks at Blue Note have added a live track, "The Fisherman," from a notable Montreux Jazz Festival performance in 1977, and a couple of unissued tracks, including Duane Allman's "Little Martha." While most of these pieces have been penned by Kottke, he also offers delightful versions of Norman Petty's "Wheels" and the Everly Brothers' favorite "All I Have to Do Is Dream." All of Kottke's stylistic gifts come into play on Instrumentals. There's electric slide on "Whine," the use of a lovely open-tuning on "Dolores," and the clean ambience and warmth of "Strange." The tracks flow in chronological order, allowing the listener to follow the guitarist's evolution over his eight years with Chrysalis; and while the albums he recorded during this time may lack the edginess of his earlier material, the pieces on Instrumentals are consistently fresh and invigorating. Guitar hero wannabes, of course, will buy the album for the extra tracks; everyone else will find it a rewarding introduction to mid-period Kottke. © Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released October 7, 2002 | Private Music

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Pop/Rock - Released July 18, 1991 | Private Music

Kottke sings on this record to good effect. Features Lyle Lovett and Margo Timmons. © Chip Renner /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 1, 1990 | Private Music

Leo Kotke's 1995 release, Leo Live, is a welcome addition to his repertoire. Kotke has gotten past his earlier reluctance to perform vocals, and his voice here sounds comfortable and assured on tracks like "Room at the Top of the Stairs" and the talking blues "Jack Gets Up." Yet, as is characteristic of his style, it's his instrumental work on cuts like "Peg Leg," "Little Martha," and a mellow version of the old classic "Twilight Time" that show the artist in peak form. Kotke's mildly "Oddball" proclivities may come through in song titles like "I Yell at Traffic" and "Flattened Brain," yet whatever he names it, his playing is consistently top of the mark. Definitely recommended. © Murrday Fisher /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 1, 1990 | Private Music

Even though six- and twelve-string master Leo Kottke's last solo album, released five years before, was named One Guitar, No Vocals, that could just as well have been the title of this one. Except for a set-closing vocal turn fronting Los Lobos on the Weavers' folk song "The Banks of Marble," the rest is just Kottke and his acoustic guitar. Together they make music that falls between folk, world, jazz, gospel, and the dreaded new age that is indelibly tied to Kottke's recognizable percussive style. There are few deviations from his established direction and many of these tracks could have been included on any of his previous two-dozen or so discs. But that doesn't lessen the impact of experiencing one of the most respected and intense acoustic guitarists in the history of the instrument ply his craft. In addition to the aforementioned tune, Kottke covers another old folk standard, "Mockingbird Hill," (which he claims to have heard from Patti Page). He tears the song apart, then reconstructs it in his own image. Carla Bley's "Jesus Maria" also goes through the Kottke machine -- for the third time -- and emerges sounding like a beautiful and twisted song from the guitarist's own pen. Short and bizarre liner notes for each tune are typically peculiar, some relating to the song in ways only Kottke will understand. Established fans won't find many revelations here, but they will still relish hearing fresh Kottke music, if only because he's obviously still playing at the top of his game 35 years into his idiosyncratic career. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released July 30, 1990 | Private Music

Leo Kottke has always been a highly idiosyncratic guitar player whose music is infused with his wry sense of humor. That's What is no exception, with Kottke's guitar work drawing from jazzy, blues and folk sources. Four of the tunes feature electric guitar, with some lively electric and string bass by sideman Billy Peterson, who also contributes touches of percussion, synth, piano and, on one piece, Farfisa organ. There are two vocal tracks: "Buzzby" is a typical Kottke absurdist slice-of-life vignette sung in his gravelly Tom Waits-style voice, while "Husbandry" is a bizarre beatnik rap, featuring sound effects and a scraping violin, about the relationship between a "slightly objectionable" 60-year-old woman and "a four day cloud in a pick-up truck" who has a dog who bursts into flames. Tying it all together is Kottke's fine guitar playing, as nimble and as quirky as ever. ~ Backroads Music/Heartbeats