It is no exaggeration to call Little Walter the Jimi Hendrix of the electric harp: he redefined what the instrument was and what it could do, pushing the instrument so far into the future that his music still sounds modern decades after it was recorded. Little Walter wasn't the first musician to amplify the harmonica but he arguably was the first to make the harp sound electric, twisting twitching, vibrant runs out of his instrument; nearly stealing the show from Muddy Waters on his earliest Chess recordings; and so impressing Leonard Chess that he made Muddy keep Walter as his harpist even after Waters broke up his band. Chess also made Walter into his studio's house harpist and started to release Little Walter solo records with the instrumental "Juke" in 1952. "Juke" became a smash hit and turned Little Walter into a star, making him a steady presence on the '50s R&B charts.
Despite its age, this collection remains the best introduction to the wonderfully bizarre sounds of Jethro Tull – a unique combination of folk music, progressive rock, heavy metal, and of course, Ian Anderson's ubiquitous flute. Drawing exclusively from the band's '70s heyday, opener "Living in the Past" sets the retrospective tone, leading the way into the signature guitar riff of "Aqualung," the band's multifaceted pièce de résistance. Though lyrically indecipherable, "Locomotive Breath" is equally timeless, and the moment when John Evan's fanciful piano intro gives way to Martin Barre's guitar feedback remains thrilling. With his acoustic guitar in hand, Ian Anderson becomes a medieval bard, drawing the listener into worlds of legend both threatening ("Sweet Dream," "Witches Promise") and joyously carefree ("Thick as a Brick," "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day"). The unbelievable kaleidoscope of sound which makes up "Songs from the Wood" is simply too original and intricate for words to describe.
Say you start a group called the Society for New Music, commission composer-stars-in-the-making and do it for thirty years straight, you might expect your scrapbooks to be quite interesting. What you might not realize is that your efforts now constitute a major segment of the backbone of contemporary American concert music and you have premiered a boatload of chamber works by composers who have gone on to distinguished careers. Such is the case with Syracuse’s Society for New Music founded by Neva Pilgrim, who opened their treasure chest of commissioned works from 1972 – 2002 and has put them together as the 5-CD set entitled “American Masters for the 21st Century.”