Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Though his multifaceted four-decade solo recording career should have merited a proper box set long before, jazz guitar great Larry Carlton finally got around to releasing a unique three-CD set -- on the same day he put out the third disc, Four Hands & A Heart, Vol. 1, as a stand-alone project. As its simple title implies, Then & Now is less a typical comprehensive compilation than a unique window into the different approaches Carlton took to his axes during his breakthrough years of the late '70s-early '80s and the 2010s -- with the 1978 live album Mr. 335 Live in Japan (never before released in the U.S.) beautifully sandwiched in the middle. Truly a set created for Carlton's most die-hard longtime fans -- but certainly enjoyable for any fan of melodic jazz fusion -- Then & Now offers some inevitably fun time-traveling, because the first thing the listener will want to do is listen to the songs culled from Larry Carlton (1978), Sleepwalk (1982), and Strikes Twice (1980) one by one and see how they match up with the more intimate, stripped-down versions (featuring mostly electric or acoustic guitars and essential percussion) that were recorded more recently.

For the most part, the new arrangements show a delightful mellowing with age, a more laid-back style (sometimes favoring acoustic over the electric) compared to the frenetic flurry of notes on the originals. On what is perhaps the most familiar and enduring of these, "Sleepwalk," none of the original emotion is lost -- but the simplicity and sound purity of the new rendering make it essential. Although some of the retro instrumentation and production are crucial to understand the original tracks as products of their time, it's great to hear the melodic and rhythmic essence of these melodies without the time-stamped bells and whistles. The classic, high-energy "young" Carlton sound also comes across powerfully on the seven-track live CD, which had only been officially available in Japan till now. There is some overlap here as well, with three live performances of songs that appear on the other CDs of the set. Although the focus is on the guitarist's personal evolution, the first two discs allow listeners to re-experience supporting performances by some of the best musicians Carlton has ever worked with, including the late Jeff Porcaro, Abraham Laboriel, Greg Mathieson, Robert "Pops" Popwell, and Terry Trotter. ~ Jonathan Widran

This is a once in a lifetime project! Larry Carlton has taken 21 tracks from albums he has previously recorded (Larry Carlton 1978, Sleepwalk 1982, and Strikes Twice 1980) and is re-releasing them along with 14 NEW versions of original songs which features Larry recording electric and acoustic guitars to his classic songs and is titled "Four Hands & a Heart Volume One". ~ CD Universe

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