Thank You Les
In the spirit of the season, who better for us guitarists to give thanks to than the man who started it all, Les Paul. Anyone who knows a lick about music knows Les as the genius behind the solid-body Gibson that bears his name. He's also responsible for developing the eight-track recorder and for such revolutionary engineering techniques as echo delay, multi-tracking, and overdubbing. Every day of a musician's life is touched by something Les did, said, played, or invented. Music as we know it would not exist without him. Les Paul was the master. He is the source.
Les was too a versatile bandleader and performer who played jazz, country, and pop with an elegant, clean-toned, fleet-fingered style. For more than 80 years Paul mesmerized musicians and music lovers alike with his unique trills, chording sequences, and fretting techniques. From Chuck Berry and Jimmy Page to Wes Montgomery and Chet Atkins, artists from every genre of music have sung his praises. Now some of them have joined forces with rhythm guitarist Lou Pallo, Les's longtime collaborator, to express their gratitude for the man who was their friend and mentor. Thank You Les
is an album and feature-length documentary combo co-produced by Pallo to pay homage to his former bandmate. Released this past September, the film delves into the relationship between the two men. We learn about Les's later years and what it was like to work alongside the guitar legend from the people who knew him best. Through extensive interviews and personal anecdotes, we're granted access to Les's inner circle and insight into the mind of a man whose passion in life was sound. Bonus features include six complete music videos from the sessions, plus never-before-seen vintage footage of this towering figure in music history.
The accompanying CD highlights many of the guitarist's favorite jazz and blues standards. The 21-song collection features Pallo and the various members of The Les Paul Trio, plus a star-studded cast of axe slingers and close friends of the guitar icon like Keith Richards, Slash, Arlen Roth, and José Feliciano. This preview clip
gives a look into the project and its diversity of guitarists and offers up some fond memories of Paul.
Pallo and Paul first met in 1963 and began performing together soon after. Lou, who has been credited with revitalizing Paul's live career, worked consistently with Les for the last 40 years of the icon's life. The two performed together every Monday night at New York's Fat Tuesdays and later at The Iridium Jazz Club on Broadway, where Les played right up until his death in 2009 at age 94. (Lou still appears weekly at The Iridium, continuing the tradition with The Les Paul Trio.) His Monday night residency was a form of therapy for Les, who suffered from arthritis. He often said the shows gave him a reason to get out of bed.
Those Iridium performances were legendary not only for Paul's personable showmanship, but for all the jams he shared with the adoring musicians in the audience who routinely dropped by to hang out with him. Many of those same devotees appear on Thank You Les
. The artists gathered on this collection are as diverse a group as ever assembled. In addition to the aforementioned talent, the album also features ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons, Steve Miller, Johnny A, legendary jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, Nokie Edwards of The Ventures, Frank Vignola, Bob Leive, Tommy Doyle and Jon Paris, as well as singers Eddie Brigati, Jr. of The Young Rascals, Blondie Chaplin of the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, Nicki Parrott of the Les Paul Trio, Lexie Roth, American Idol
finalist Melinda Doolittle, and other members of The Les Paul Trio, past and present.
Although many of the guitarists here are a bit on the raucous side, they play the tunes on Thank You Les
as elegantly as the man himself did. This doesn't mean the bunch don't put their own improvisational stamp on the material as well. They do. From guitar virtuoso Arlen Roth performing "Mr. Sandman," to José Feliciano's take on "Bésame Mucho," to Blondie Chaplin and trumpeter Bob Leive turning in a beautiful rendition of the Charlie Chaplin classic "Smile," every track on the album has its own unique vibe.
Though no one dared tackle the great "Tiger Rag," Keith Richards sings (you heard right) a fine version of Bing Crosby's "It's Been A Long, Long Time," one of the first hit pop records to feature a guitar solo. Keith's take on the song is so smooth and mellow and out of character for rock's baddest boy that you know you're privy to something truly special when he's willing to share this softer side.
Likewise Billy Gibbons seems an odd fit for "September Song." Surprisingly, though, he performs a pretty straightforward version with just a touch of that string-bending Texas twang here and there.
Of all the rockers on Thank You Les
, Slash lets loose the most. He tears up Paul's "Deep in the Blues" with what sounds like the same tube screamer he used on GN'R's "Sweet Child O'Mine" and a lot of wah-wah. Slash does Les proud. Paul would've no doubt enjoyed going head-to-head on the number with him.
Steve Miller, who is Les's godson, performs two songs on the album, "Tell Me What's the Reason" and "Nature Boy." He also contributes the liner notes in which he writes, "Even after becoming one of the most influential musicians and inventors of the 20th century, Les Paul always had time for everyone from Tony Bennett to Johnny Rotten and anyone in between. He never judged you by how you looked or what kind of music you played, but by your character and your commitment to music. It's a tribute to the kind of human being Les was that he was always willing to share his spotlight with any musician brave enough to come forward to say hello."
I don't typically get all that excited about tribute albums, but Thank You Les
is irresistible. It's intimate and authentic. If you're a fan of the guitar, or for that matter music in general, this CD/DVD set is an essential addition to your collection. Thank You Les
is a tribute, a tutorial, a testimonial, and a heck of a lot of fun to listen to. Pick up a copy for yourself and buy another for the music lover on your holiday shopping list. They'll thank you for it.
This image, which was originally posted to Flickr.com, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 23:09, 23 September 2009 (UTC) by Shoulder-synth (talk). Originally posted to Flickr as Les Paul's Argyle Socks.