Derek Bailey's first solo recording at the time of its original release (subsequent albums have gone further back), Solo Guitar, Vol. 1 was an utter revelation for those few who initially heard it. No one, absolutely no one, was playing guitar like this in 1971. Although his influence could already be felt in the more abstract work of Robert Fripp (listen to "Moonchild" from the first King Crimson album) and would soon be picked up strongly by Fred Frith, Bailey occupied a universe of his own, freely improvising with little reference to the jazz tradition (including free jazz), sending splinters of notes into the ether and summoning ringing feedback from the deep innards of his ax. Most of the pieces here are performed on electric guitar, Bailey's patented use of the volume pedal clearly in evidence, as is the insightful intellect that would be a trademark. Solo Guitar, Vol. 1 is one of his knottier offerings; he would mellow out slightly (very slightly) after 1980 or so and listeners who have only previously heard his later work may be surprised at how unrelentingly spiny and brusque his playing is here. But it's no less spectacular than the gorgeous Solo Guitar, Vol. 2, which only took about another 20 years to appear. A handful of pieces included are odd even by Bailey standards in that they are largely composed: Misha Mengelberg's delightfully loony "Where Is the Police?" (complete with some synth work from Bailey!), Willem Breuker's hilarious and intricate "Christiani Eddy" with its puzzled, vocalized pauses, and a lovely, formidable work by ex-bandmate (in Joseph Holbrooke) Gavin Bryars. All told, this is required listening for any self-respecting Derek Bailey fan and a fascinating, complex, and ultimately delicious disc on its own merits.
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick