Despite the lag between the 1965 recording of his debut album The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier and his 1972 sophomore effort Occasional Rain, Callier was far from inactive -- in addition to regularly playing on the Chicago club circuit, he also cut a series of extraordinary demos which have finally surfaced almost three decades later as First Light. In the nine studio tracks which comprise the collection -- a superb 1971 solo benefit date is also included -- it's possible to hear the foundations of the aesthetic perfected on his classic Cadet recordings of the mid-1970s; on early renditions of songs like "Ordinary Joe" and "Alley Wind Song," all the pieces are already in place, as the haunted soulfulness of Callier's vocals blends perfectly with waves of acoustic folk guitar and subtle jazz textures. "Can't Catch the Trane," a tribute to his hero John Coltrane, barrels forward with appropriate locomotive force, spurred on by an incendiary tenor sax solo, while "Lean on Me" is beautifully delicate, a ballad of remarkable warmth and tenderness. Essential stuff.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny