1. Las Manos de Fuego (Hands of Fire)
2. Could It Be I'm Falling in Love
4. Slippin' in the Back Door
6. Laughter in the Rain.
7. Waltz for Debby
8. Wind and the Sea
1. Captain Caribé
2. I Heard It Through the Grapevine
4. Living Inside Your Love
5. Another Time, Another Place
6. The April Fools
8. Magic in Your Eyes
11. Lode Star
12. Cast Your Fate to the Wind
13. Rose Hips
14. Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues
16. Cry a Little While
The phrase "smooth jazz" was hardly common parlance when guitarist Earl Klugh came on the scene, yet his music exemplifies many of that genre's qualities. Earl improvises freely in jazz style, and his career included playing with such jazzmen as Yusef Lateef and George Benson, although he claims that his first inspiration was country guitarist Chet Atkins. All the music in this compilation might be categorised as "easy listening". This is accentuated by the fact that Earl Klugh specialises in the gentle sound of the acoustic guitar.
This is a bargain package of three early Earl Klugh albums on two CDs at mid-price. The first CD contains Earl Klugh's eponymous debut album, issued in 1976. The second CD includes his second and fourth albums, released respectively in 1976 and 1978, although Living Inside Your Love omits the Latin medley which was added to some later issues of the album.
Earl is backed by some of the finest studio musicians in the business - too numerous to list in detail, although the line-up includes such great names as Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, Steve Gadd, Eddie Daniels and Greg Phillinganes. In fact the backing is so rich that Earl Klugh's guitar is often almost inaudible beneath the multi-layered arrangements, with multiple keyboards as well as strings and a horn section. The sound is very much of its time, frequently including an assertive bass guitar and thumping bass drum to emphasise the beat for the disco generation.
The first album, Earl Klugh, set the tone for many of its successors, with a mixture of originals by Earl, pleasantly jazzy versions of pop songs like Could It Be I'm Falling in Love and Neil Sedaka's Laughter in the Rain, and even a version of Bill Evans's Waltz for Debby (winningly played by Klugh unaccompanied for the first two minutes). Earl wrote three tunes for this debut album - Angelina, Vonetta and Wind and the Sea - which illustrate Earl's ability to come up with simple but catchy themes.
Dave Grusin wrote the arrangements for this album and the next one - Living Inside Your Love - which slims down the backing by dispensing with the horn section (except for using Eddie Daniels on a couple of tracks) but adds three unnecessary backing singers to I Heard It Through the Grapevine and Living Inside Your Love. Earl is allowed to be heard without any obtrusive backing in The April Fools, a Bacharach & David song.
The last LP opens with the title-track, Magic in Your Eyes, one of Earl Klugh's most beautiful compositions. In fact Earl wrote six of the tunes on this album. His idol, Chet Atkins, makes a guest appearance on Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues, appropriately recorded in Nashville. Lloyd Green's pedal steel guitar adds to the country flavour of this track as well as Julie and Cry a Little While.
This collection shows why Earl Klugh has become such a popular artist: playing music that is melodious and easy to listen to, although one must admit that these 24 tracks are in danger of sounding samey if played one after another.