Two late-’80s instrumental albums by Albert Lee, 1987’s Speechless and 1988’s Gagged But Not Bound, are combined onto one 70-minute CD on this Australian reissue. Lee is destined to be remembered primarily for his work as a sideman rather than as a featured performer or songwriter, and these two albums, pleasant listening though they were, demonstrated this to some degree. Certainly his picking is unfailingly impeccably executed and imaginative, but it’s more like tastefully arranged quality background music than something to excite or inspire. Both records mix Lee originals with covers of standards and oldies, but Speechless has far more of Lee’s own songs, Albert writing over half of the material as well as covering Duane Eddy’s “Cannonball” and the traditional songs “Salt Creek” and “Arkansas Traveller.” Gagged But Not Bound isn’t radically different (though the instrumentation is a little more elaborate), but has just one Lee composition, the other tunes ranging from Patsy Cline and Chet Atkins country songs to “Midnight Special,” Roy Hamilton’s late-’50s rocker “Don’t Let Go,” and a number by one of the supporting musicians, Jim Cox. Lee is at his best when his axe crackles with the spirit of boogie and rockabilly, as it does on Speechless’ opener, “T-Bird to Vegas.” His occasional piano outings, however, are the low points, perhaps influenced by the vogue the Windham Hill label was enjoying with some piano instrumental recordings at the time.