Release date: April 1, 1984
On the crowded cruise ship of unmatched talents that is ECM, Pat Metheny deserves a first-class suite. The prodigious guitarist cut teeth with Gary Burton, making his first label appearance on Dreams So Real, and recording that same month (December of 1975) what would become the splash heard around the musical world that was Bright Size Life. This compilation, however, jumps over that leader debut into his last two watershed moments of the 1970s. The first of these is “Sueño Con México” (New Chautauqua, 1979). Its combination of acoustic guitars and electric bass is about as close to the original cover photograph’s open road as one can imagine. Without a care (or a car) in sight, Metheny plays his way through patchwork fields, each with its own character and color, and which by their counterpoint suggest a collective song. The second, “(Cross The) Heartland,” represents the Pat Metheny Group’s sophomore album, 1979’s American Garage. This dream team of Lyle Mays (keyboards), Mark Egan (bass), and Dan Gottlieb (drums) renders every change of scenery with utmost clarity. Metheny plays with squint-eyed brilliance, riding an underlying current that never lets up until the end. Thus, the title feels less descriptive than prescriptive: a bidding to step outside everyday bounds and see some history for yourself.
Our ride takes us through later PMG intersections, including the title track of 1983’s Travels and “James” from 1982’s Offramp. Both find bassist Steve Rodby replacing Egan for an especially distant sound. From moonlight to sunlight, this overnight diptych spotlights Mays’s ability to spin progressive ropes from traditional filaments. On “It’s For You” (As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, 1981), he and Metheny join percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, who also lets his singing voice carry forth: a melodic backbone built to withstand any flexing of key change and forward motion. Rounding out this “Works” entry are two selections from 1980’s 80/81. Alongside Mike Brecker on tenor saxophone, Charlie Haden on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, the parenthetical wonder of “Every Day (I Thank You)” opens Metheny’s 12-string like a loom to narrative weaving. By contrast, “Goin’ Ahead” is a congregation of multitracked Methenys that distills the essence of his formative years. Brilliant, evocative, and timeless.
Metheny captures all of this and more as a camera takes in light, turning moments into lasting memories to be treasured time and time again.