Les Paul and Friends - American Made, World Played

2006-03-30 07:19

Les Paul is the founder of the solid-body electric guitar. The sleeve notes, written by rock legend Steve Miller, detail the events of 1950, when highly regarded jazz and session musos would come from far and wide to see virtuoso Paul and his amazing new invention.

Through the years, several artists have used the electric guitar to carve themselves a place in rock history - and many of them have been invited to play on this record.

An impressive lineup of fabled guitarists contribute: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Peter Frampton, Billy Gibbons, Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi), Buddy Guy and Keith Richards, Joe Perry (Aerosmith) and Steve Miller.

Other top artists contribute vocals and other instruments: Sting, Joss Stone, Sam Cooke, Beth Hart, Johnny Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls) and Mick Hucknall.

So it's an all-star cast, but is the music any good? Well... sometimes. It's big, it's sprawling, and it's a PR guy's wet dream. But it's really only Sam Cooke who stands out as the Most Valuable Player. His take with Clapton on his own "Somebody Ease My Torublin' Mind' is breathtaking, and truly one of the few times that the album rises above it's lofty expectations.

It unexpectedly does so too on Johnny Rzeznik's faithful version of U2's "All I Want Is You". But it drops the ball on Richie Sambora's attempt at McCartney's admittedly difficult classic "Let Me Roll It".

As for the rest, it's competent enough. It would be better than most commercial offerings, but for the calibre of its players, meaning: it should be the most outstanding record of the year, but actually, it's just pretty cool.

- Anton Marshall

If the people who packaged Les Paul's "benefit" CD had steered away from the "we love America" motif, the CD might have actually appealed to aspirant rock guitarists as far afield as Afghanistan.

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