Since The Essential Chet Atkins concentrates on his instrumental tracks – including hits like "Mr. Sandman" and "Yakety Axe" – it functions as the best single-disc retrospective of the guitarist. It is also one of the only collections that concisely demonstrates his subtlely dazzling virtuosity.
Arista remastered Graham Parker's masterpiece, Squeezing Out Sparks, for CD reissue, adding the previously promotional-only live album Live Sparks as an added bonus. Though it is somewhat disconcerting to hear the same songs in the same order in a row, it's an excellent addition for hardcore collectors, especially since the sound on the original album is considerably improved. And, Live Sparks is a nervy, energetic live recording, especially with the addition of "I Want You Back (Alive)" and "Mercury Poisoning".
Walter Gieseking is joined by stellar wind players, including the great hornist Dennis Brain; and the Quintets have a gleaming, robust quality that make them irresistible. They were recorded in the mid- 1950s, a time when Gieseking sometimes operated on automatic pilot, but here he sounds involved and fluent; the keyboard part played with aristocratic grace and, where appropriate, sparkling high spirits. The filler is one of Herbert von Karajan's few successful Mozart recordings, aided immeasurably by the expert first-desk soloists of the Philharmonia.