Fans of the kind of gentle, introspective, and melodic acoustic guitar playing that helped define new age music in its late '70s and '80s heyday will make fast friends with this collection of reinterpretations by one of the genre's formative masters. Ackerman, whose career spans from his cheaply recorded 1976 debut, ...The Turtle's Navel, through his Grammy-nominated 2001 hit Hearing Voices
, made an an art form out of musical reflection while also founding and guiding Windham Hill into a presence as one of the world's top instrumental labels. His goal was to take a series of 11 favorite songs -- some originally recorded with an ensemble -- from 1970-1997 and record them for posterity in a way that reflects the emotional nuances, precision, and maturing beauty they've picked up along the road. He includes the graceful and lushly melodic "The Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter" (which he names the best song he ever wrote), the sweet and melancholy "Anne's Song" (inspired by working with fellow genre legends Alex de Grassi
and Michael Hedges
), and two peaceful early gems from 1970, "Pictures" and "Barbara's Song." Some were written as celebrations ("Unconditional"), others as elegies ("The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit"), but all are intricate snapshots of a vastly influential musical life that keeps inventive to this day.