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.
One of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century, as well as a legendary musician and producer within country music. Without Chet Atkins, country music may never have crossed over into the pop charts in the '50s and '60s. Although he recorded hundreds of solo records, Atkins' largest influence came as a session musician and a record producer. During the '50s and '60s, he helped create the Nashville sound, a style of country music that owed nearly as much to pop as it did to honky tonks.
These two RCA LPs came out in '64 and '65 when Chet was at the height of his success with the label, scoring his biggest country hit (#4) with Yakety Axe . That classic joins 23 others by the late Nashville icon, including Freight Train; Winter Walkin'; Alone and Forsaken; Guitar Country ; his own versions of Johnny Cash's Understand Your Man and Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind, and more!
After decades of recording for RCA Victor, Atkins switched labels; this 1985 effort is a summit meeting of sorts with young guitar hotshots like Larry Carlton, George Benson, Mark Knopfler, Steve Lukather, and Earl Klugh, plus session A-teamers like Boots Randolph, Larrie Londin, David Hungate, Mark O'Connor and others. Atkins' tone is, as usual, faultless, and his playing superb. If the "meetings" don't always come off, it's usually due to the overzealousness of the other guitar players (Lukather's over-the-top style screams '80s big hair, for instance), not Chet, whose playing always exercises the utmost in restraint in every situation. All in all, a good modern-day Chet Atkins album, but not the place to start a collection.
It's tough to live down one's past, especially if that past incorporates one of music's biggest "coulda been a star" stories since Pete Best. Al Atkins has been trying to escape the shadow of Judas Priest, the band he formed in the late '60s, ever since the band took off to stardom without him, but it's been a rough road that even 2007's Demon Deceiver couldn't entirely smooth. For that solo set, his fifth, Atkins joined forces with Budgie guitarist Simon Lees, bassist Pete Emms, and drummer Mick Hales, with Diamond Head's Brian Tatler and Danté Fox's Mike De Jager among the guest support…