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Leo Kottke

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Leo Kottke - 6- And 12-String Guitar [Takoma Records C-1024] (1969)

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ITEM# SR-TAC1024
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Artist:

Leo Kottke

Title:

6- And 12-String Guitar

Originally Released: 1969
This Reissue: 1975
Country: USA
Label: Takoma Records
Catalog: C-1024
Genre: Blues, Folk, World, & Country


T R A C K L I S T:
01 The Driving Of The Year Nail
02 The Last Of The Arkansas Greyhounds
03 Ojo
04 Crow River Waltz
05 The Sailor's Grave On The Prairie
06 Vaseline Machine Gun
07 Jack Fig
08 Watermelon
09 Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring
10 The Fisherman
11 The Tennessee Toad
12 Busted Bicycle
13 The Brain Of The Purple Mountain
14 Coolidge Rising
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Album Review

Richie Unterberger [allmusic.com]

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.


Leo Kottke - Greenhouse [Capitol ST-11000] (1972)

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ITEM# SR-CAST11000
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Artist:

Leo Kottke

Title:

Greenhouse

Released: 1972
Label: Capitol
Catalog: ST-11000
Genre: Folk
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Bean Time
02 Tiny Island
03 The Song Of The Swamp
04 In Christ There Is No East Or West
05 Last Steam Engine Train
06 From The Cradle To The Grave
07 Louise
08 The Spanish Entomologist
09 Owls
10 You Don't Have To Need Me
11 Lost John
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Album Review

Bruce Eder [allmusic.com]

A somewhat less ambitious record than Mudlark, from a recording standpoint, Greenhouse is a true solo record that offers several surprises. Over a third of it is made up of vocal numbers, including two that are absolutely superb. "Tiny Island" may be the best track here, a song by Al Gaylor, inspired by the death of Jimi Hendrix, that offer one of Kottke's best vocal performances of his whole career. Also worth the price of a ticket are a pair of John Fahey-related tunes ("In Christ There Is No East or West," "Last Steam Engine Train") that he puts his own unique spin on, with the latter a true dazzler as an acoustic piece; "From the Cradle to the Grave," a strangely compelling song in which Kottke's singing is the backup to his guitar, which has center stage even when he's singing; and the slow, lyrical bluesy "Louise," another vocal performance where Kottke excels as a singer; the playful, delightful "The Spanish Entomogolgist," a medley of children's songs that includes quotations from "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Jambalaya"; and the gorgeous bluegrass guitar workout on "Owls." Some of the mastering isn't quite as clean here as it is on other titles in Kottke's catalog, but otherwise this is an acceptable reissue of an album that is, perhaps, under appreciated because of its relatively high concentration of vocal numbers by the guitarist. Not all of those come off as well as the two best, but none are complete failures, and his guitar playing even on the weakest of them, "You Don't Have To Need Me," is interesting enough to carry the piece.


Leo Kottke - My Feet Are Smiling (Capitol ST-11164) (1973)

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ITEM# SR_CAST11164
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Artist:

Leo Kottke

Title:

My Feet Are Smiling

Released: 1973
Label: Capitol
Catalog: ST-11164
Genre: Folk / Instrumental
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Introduction
02 Hear The Wind Howl
03 Busted Bicycle
04 Easter
05 Louise
06 Blue Dot
07 Stealing
08 Living In The Country
09 June Bug
10 Standing In My Shoes
11 The Fisherman
12 Bean Time
13 Eggtooth
14 Medley:
[A] Crow River Waltz;
[B] Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring;
[C] Jack Fig
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by Mark Allan [allmusic.com]

The prodigious technique, deadpan sense of humor, and infamous singing are all evident less than a minute into the opening tune. Performing solo and playing more slide guitar than usual, Kottke wows a supportive hometown audience in Minneapolis with some of the finest playing of his career. That's saying a lot. Sensational one moment and sentimental the next, he presents a varied, well-paced set that's worth adding to your collection if you can find it. The well-traveled "Louise" is only one highlight, although it's Leo's playing that will drop your jaw, not his singing.


Leo Kottke - Dreams And All That Stuff (Capitol ST-11335) (1974)

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Artist:

Leo Kottke

Title:

Dreams And All That Stuff

Released: 1974
Label: Capitol
Catalog: ST-11335
Genre: Folk / Progressive Folk
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Mona Ray
02 When Shrimps Learn To Whistle
03 Twilight Property
04 Bill Cheatham
05 Vertical Trees
06 Medley: San Antionio Rose / America, The Beautiful
07 Constant Traveler
08 Why Ask Why?
09 Taking A Sandwich To A Feast
10 Hole In The Day
11 Mona Roy
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Album Review

Bruce Eder [allmusic.com]

Kottke's sixth official album is a dazzling array of pieces, some wistfully romantic ("Mona Ray"), others savagely witty ("When Shrimps Learn to Whistle"), and still others downright folksy ("Bill Cheatham"), with accompaniments of varying shapes and types, from dobro to synthesizer and piano. The shifting moods make this album, appropriately enough, a rather dreamlike experience, as Kottke moves from the blues-inflected "Vertical Trees," through a jaunty medley of "San Antonio Rose"/"America, the Beautiful," into "Constant Traveller" (which opens on a cascading guitar pattern and shifts to a slower, more elegant and bluesy mode), through rippling bravura pieces like "Taking a Sandwich to a Feast," and into the slower and more lyrical guitar-piano duet, "Hole in the Day." Kottke's own tunes are reasonably memorable, though the virtuosity tends to overshadow the music itself at times. The CD release is notably clean, its only flaw being the near impossibility of reading the credits on the back of the miniaturized album jacket.


Leo Kottke - Chewing Pine [Capitol Records ST-11446] (1975)

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ITEM# SR-CAST11446
Ratings: C=VG+; LP=VG+

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Artist:

Leo Kottke

Title:

Chewing Pine

Released: 1975
Country: US
Label: Capitol Records
Catalog: ST-11446
Genre: Country, Folk


Matrix / Runout (Side A):
ST-11446-A-Z8 * BB

Matrix / Runout (Side B):
ST-11446-B-Z8 * BB
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Standing On The Outside
02 Power Failure
03 Venezuela, There You Go
04 Don't You Think
05 Regards From Chuck Pink
06 Monkey Money
07 The Scarlatti Rip-Off
08 Wheels
09 Grim To The Brim
10 Rebecca
11 Trombone
12 Can't Quite Put It Into Words
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Album Review

Bruce Eder [allmusic.com]

Leo Kottke's seventh album is a dazzling amalgam of sounds and styles -- there's a surprising emphasis on vocal numbers here, beginning with ''Standing on the Outside'' and ''Power Failure'' (a Procol Harum number, no less), that show him off singing with a full band in a light country-ish vein, followed by ''Venezuela, There You Go,'' a loping instrumental that incorporates some nimble-textured slide guitar to great effect in its opening bars. Then it's back to a vocal idiom with a slow, powerful, bluesy rendition of Marty Robbins' ''Don't You Think,'' on which Bill Barber's piano shares the spotlight with Kottke's singing. Some of the rest, like ''Monkey Money,'' don't meld his guitar and the band as well, and as good as the Robbins song is, the virtues of this album lie in its leaner instrumentals. The obvious attempt on Chewing Pine to sell Kottke as more of a mainstream artist and a sometime singer obviously didn't work, as this closed out his contract with Capitol Records (apart from one subsequent compilation). It also says something about how the artist himself and his admirers feel; only a single track off of Chewing Pine, the shimmering, fingerpicking instrumental ''The Scarlatti Rip-Off,'' earned a place on his Rhino anthology. There are enough good moments, and even a few transcendent ones, to justify owning this album.

Leo Kottke's Biography

by Jason Ankeny [allmusic.com]

Innovative acoustic guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke was born September 11, 1945, in Athens, GA. Raised in 12 different states, he absorbed a variety of musical influences as a child, flirting with both violin and trombone before trying his hand at the guitar at age 11. After developing a love for the country-blues of Mississippi John Hurt, Kottke lost much of the hearing in his left ear as a result of a mishap with a firecracker; during a later tenure in the Naval Reserve, his right ear suffered permanent damage during firing practice.

Discharged due to his impairment, Kottke entered college, dropping out after several years to hitchhike across the country as an itinerant musician. After settling in the Twin Cities area and becoming a fixture on the city's folk club circuit, he issued his 1969 debut LP, Twelve String Blues, recorded live at Minneapolis' Scholar Coffee House, on the tiny Oblivion label. After sending 1970's Circle 'Round the Sun to guitarist John Fahey, Kottke was signed by Fahey's manager Denny Bruce, who soon secured a deal with Capitol.

Kottke's 1971 major-label debut, Mudlark, positioned him somewhat uneasily in the singer/songwriter vein, despite his own wishes to remain an instrumental performer; in the liner notes to 1972's 6- and 12-String Guitar, issued on Fahey's Takoma label, he even described his own voice as "geese farts on a muggy day." Still, despite battles with label heads as well as with Bruce, Kottke flourished during his tenure on Capitol, as records like 1972's Greenhouse and 1973's live My Feet Are Smiling and Ice Water found him branching out with guest musicians and unusual song covers drawing on folk, rock, jazz, and bluegrass, all the while honing his propulsive fingerpicking mastery.

With 1975's Chewing Pine, Kottke reached the U.S. Top 50 for the first time; he also gained an international cult following thanks to his performances at folk festivals the world over. With his 1976 self-titled release, he moved to the Chrysalis label, although sales diminished for LPs including 1978's Burnt Lips, 1979's Balance, and 1980's Live in Europe. After 1983's T-Bone Burnett-produced Time Step, Kottke's contract with Chrysalis ended, and he moved over to the independent Private Music label.

Kottke's powerful technique, combined with his prolific output and extensive touring schedule, resulted in a lingering pain in his hands that began to hamper his playing in the middle of the 1980s. Consequently, the beginning of his tenure on Private Music coincided with the beginnings of a shift in technique closer to classical guitar performance; he also slowed his productivity, and after 1986's reflective A Shout Toward Noon, he did not re-enter the studio before recording Regards from Chuck Pink in 1988.

Simultaneously, Kottke cut back dramatically on his live schedule, settling comfortably into his role as a cult figure. He released an album annually from 1989 to 1991, following My Father's Face with That's What and finally Great Big Boy, which featured a guest appearance from Lyle Lovett. Two years later, Kottke returned with Peculiaroso, which featured production by Rickie Lee Jones. The solo One Guitar, No Vocals followed in 1999, but it was his collaboration with Phish bassist Mike Gordon, Clone, that caught audiences' attention in 2002. Kottke returned to the solo realm with 2004's Try and Stop Me, released on Bluebird. In 2005, Kottke collaborated with Phish bassist Mike Gordon on Sixty Six Steps.
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