One of the few smooth jazz artists of the '80s to make music that's simultaneously melodically substantial and sonically contemplative, Larry Carlton hit a career high on 1986's Alone/But Never Alone. Playing only acoustic guitar (with electric bass, drums, and synthesizers on most tracks), Carlton neatly sidesteps the twin pitfalls of new age mush and smooth jazz showboating, playing neatly phrased, well-thought solo lines against a variety of melodic and rhythmic backgrounds. The acoustic focus gives the album a timeless quality, even though a few tracks feature synthesizer lines that betray their mid-'80s origins, and the obviously spiritual quality of the music (song titles include not only the higher-power-oriented title track, but "Smiles and Smiles to Go" and "Perfect Peace," and the centerpiece track is an instrumental setting of a common tune for "The Lord's Prayer") is becalming without being drippy or pillow-soft. This is not an album that will change the mind of those dead-set against smooth jazz, but it's a small masterpiece of the genre.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason