Speechless / Gagged But Not Bound


Back in the mid ‘80s America was completely unprepared for the digital boom brought about by the advent of the compact disc. Subsequently, that ‘85-’87 period was a virtual disaster for small, independent record labels who scrambled and sold their soul to make CDs through the auspices of unscrupulous, often criminal distributors with contacts among pressing plants, then only available in Japan and Europe. At that exciting, yet dangerous mid '80s turning point in music history, some of the majors were busy trying to emulate the success of the New Age kings at the Windham Hill label, including Columbia and MCA, who thrilled the early CD believers with their vital Master Series. Featuring unusually adventurous instrumental albums from Americana music icons like Booker T. Jones, Billy Joe Walker Jr., Edgar Meyer and Larry Knechtel, MCA’s Master Series also heralded a pair of diverse, skillful sounding CDs from U.K. twangabilly guitar ace Albert Lee. Released respectively in 1987 and 1988, both the eight cut Speechless and the follow up, Gagged But Not Bound have long been out of print so the appearance of both combined on a nineteen track, 2008, 2 on 1 CD from Australia’s reissue experts Raven is a real boon for music fans. Looking back on these groundbreaking CD releases Lee adds, ‘I never really thought of doing an instrumental album. I’d done instrumentals going way back to the late 1960’s. Then there was some stuff with Head, Hands & Feet but my first two records were made when I was still coming to terms with being a singer.’ In demand around 1987 as a hired guitar gun for top artists like Eric Clapton and the Everly Brothers, Lee continues, ’I guess MCA were trying to pick up on the success of the Windham Hill label who were selling a lot of non-vocal albums at the time.’ A mix of electric bluegrass, traditional music and Chet / Duane inspired instro rock, this combo CD of Speechless and Gagged But Not Bound is packed with rare photos and historical insight. Revisiting Raven’s ‘08 CD Lee's reissue provides an interesting contrast to his recent vocal work on the Sugar Hill label while also shining a light on his underrated abilities as an innovator of rocking instrumental guitar music.


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