Larry Carlton may not have been issuing records in the United States with any regularity, but Sapphire Blue proves he hasn't been sitting on his hands, either. It's Carlton's first blues-oriented album in many years. Featuring a large band with a complete horn section, Reese Wynans on B-3, Matt Rollings on Rhodes piano, Terry McMillan on piano, and others, Carlton is in fine, even understated form here. This group plays like a band with a soloist at its center, not like a bunch of paid hacks backing up a guitar whiz.
While touring between Strikes Twice and its follow-up, Sleepwalk, Larry Carlton recorded Eight Times Up live in Tokyo in early 1982. This was his second live album recorded in Japan in under a decade (following 1979's excellent Mr. 335 Live in Japan), and once again found Carlton and band in fine form playing smooth jazz-fusion. Songs from Strikes Twice and Sleepwalk largely comprise this six-song recording. And though the production and instrumentation definitely sound dated, Carlton's guitar playing is once again textbook smooth jazz, and makes up for that slight sonic nuance.
Larry Carlton's fourth studio album, 1981's Strikes Twice, features the guitarist/vocalist playing a mix of crossover jazz and soft rock. While Carlton had previously sung and played guitar on his 1968 debut and 1973 follow-up, it was not until his 1978 eponymous release that he fully developed his trademark electric guitar sound, mixing jazz, rock, and pop elements. Strike Twice finds Carlton building upon that sound with songs that move between bright instrumental jazz rock ("Springville," "Midnight Parade") and melodic AM pop ("Ain't Nothin' for a Heartache," "Magician")