Les Paul

Les Paul

The Best Of — The Millennium Collection

Decca/MCA

Les Paul once jokingly remarked that today’s listeners don’t know he plays guitar – “They think I am one.” While sadly, there may be some truth to that – the guitar that bears his name, the Gibson Les Paul, is one of the most recognized musical instruments in the world – the music of Les Paul has not, in current times, captured the same attention.

Which is a shame. For all of his technological advances (he pioneered multi-track recording, in addition to the notion of a solid-body electric guitar), Paul was also one of the country’s most listened to and admired guitarists in the ’40s and ’50s, playing a nimble, skittish brand of jazz and pop with such vocalists as Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters. Paul’s work with his wife and partner, Mary Ford (unfortunately not included on this disc) is stellar vocal pop, with layers of guitars enough to rival a Pink Floyd record, decades before the practice became commonplace.

What is included on this disc is enough to wet your whistle, Les Paul-wise. Cuts such as the western-swingish “Guitar Boogie” or his version of “Begin The Beguine” are fine examples of pre-rock and roll guitar artistry, and also show how the early days of overdubbing came to be. Granted, I can live without hearing Bing Crosby, but Paul’s fluid, jazzy backing makes “der Bingster” almost palatable. Les Paul is rightly known for his many technical creations. He should be equally praised for his music as well.

Universal Records, 2200 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404; http://www.umusic.com

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