Picks and Pans Review: Speechless

updated 05/12/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Albert Lee

It would be hard to find a better pop musician than Lee, and it's hard to imagine him or anyone else playing more engagingly than he does on this album. He's best known as a country guitarist—for five years in a row he was named best country guitarist by Guitar Player magazine—but he has also backed up such performers as Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, Bo Diddley and Joan Armatrading. This album crosses over and back a number of times, from country to rockabilly to jazz. Yet it is held together by the dexterity and delicacy of Lee's playing. Not only can he play all the notes but he puts them together in constantly surprising, lyrical ways. This is an all-instrumental album. (Lee has sung in the past but seems to have decided that his singing is best reserved for the shower.) He is backed by a small group notable primarily for the presence of Jim Cox, who has a romp-stomp good time fooling around with his synthesizers. On Lee's breakdown arrangement of Arkansas Traveler, Cox even throws in what sounds like a calliope solo. Lee himself plays piano on two tracks—as a boy he played piano before guitar—and on his own moody Erin, his lovely, almost crystalline tone is not unlike the Keith Jarrett of the Köln concerts. It might have been fun to hear another musician or two in Lee's band on this album; a fiddler, for instance, might have added something. There's so much satisfying music, though, that there's no real reason to complain. (MCA)

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