This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is album review number one hundred and two in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate “ and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I will mix vinyl and CD albums and try and present an Australian album every fifth review!
I’m not sure there has ever been another man like this weeks artist.
Not only was he “Master” of his instrument, in both a technical and almost spiritual way, but he was one of the greatest guitar and recording innovators of all time. I am talking about Les Paul!
In what can only be described as a bonus for the reviewer and the listener, he is accompanied on this album by the Mary Ford who had the most fantastic voice and somehow, was a perfect match for the playing of Les Paul.
The World Is Still Waiting For The Sunrise was released by Capitol Records in 1974 and its code is SENC 10203.
It has twelve absolutely classic Les Paul & Mary Ford tracks tracks and is a compilation recording.
It is some indication of how prolific a recording artist he was when we recognise by 1974, prior to this album, he already had released TWENTY albums, that is between 1944 and 1974, of which four were compilations.
Across his amazing career he released some forty albums, and a staggering forty eight singles, all between 1945 and 1961. Of these, eighteen reached the top 10 and three were number one’s.
Look, the story of Les Paul is so fascinating and involved it really demands a full bio and while I’ll provide a brief summary for younger readers not in the “know”, the fact of the matter is, really a movie on his life is waaaay overdue.
Born Lester Polfus in 1916 in the US state of Wisconsin, it was the harmonica in fact that was his first instrument. But we move beyond the harmonica and come to the conclusion that, he is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most influential figures in the development of modern music-making!
He developed an interest in both music and electronics very early in his life. At the age of nine he started teaching himself the guitar (having already tackled the harmonica and then moving on from the piano and the banjo).
It was a good thing he had self belief for his piano teacher sent home a note saying, “Dear Mrs Polfus, your boy Lester, will never learn music, so save your money. Please don’t send him for any more piano lessons“.
In the early part of his career he had fabricated a primitive recording machine out of parts culled from a Cadillac and a dentist drill.
By 13 years of age he was performing semi-professionally as a country musician and began pursuing experiments to electrically amplify his instrument. Initial attempts involved the use of a record player needle, the earpiece from a telephone, and cannibalized radio components.
Years later, the system was perfected with the replacement of the hollow guitar body with a solid block of wood: one of the earliest designs for what eventually came to be known as the solid body electric guitar.
While still a teen Les Paul became a member of Rube Tronson’s Cowboys, and shortly afterwards dropped out to work full-time with Wolverton’s Radio Band on radio station KMOX in St. Louis.
By the 1930s he had relocated to Chicago, where he began his recording career using the hillbilly persona of ‘Rhubarb Red‘, maintaining at the same time a parallel career in jazz as Les Paul.
His first trio was assembled in 1937, but the following year he moved to New York to work as a featured player on the radio broadcasts of Fred Waring‘s Pennsylvanians – a job that was brought to an abrupt end in 1941 when he was nearly electrocuted during a session in his basement.
On the other hand 1941 also saw the creation of the “The Log“, the culmination of his efforts to create an electric guitar.
The formation of a new trio and another change in his base in operations to Los Angeles had taken place by 1943, the latter resulting in a last-minute enlistment as guitarist for the first of the Jazz at the Philharmonic events in 1944.
Les began an association with Bing Crosby while visiting Los Angeles. Now at this time Crosby was a massive star of both screen and recording, so not only did he feature Les Paul and his trio on his radio program and featured several of his records.
Crosby also became one of the key supporters of the guitarist’s experiments in recording technology. Les Paul was “doomed” to success.
Having come into the possession of a captured WWII German tape recorder, Les quickly elaborated on the basic design and created a device that allowed him to layer (multi-track) parts.
The first public result was the complex, eight-guitar piece Lover, released by Capitol Records in 1947 and forever granted Les Paul the rightful mantle of the “father” of multi-tracking.
The subsequent popularity of the song added considerable momentum to his career, but a serious car accident not long afterwards very nearly brought it to a permanent end: a year-and-a-half was required to fully recover from the ordeal.
Even after his recovery he was only able to continue his work because he had convinced his doctors to set his shattered right arm in a guitar-playing position.
In the 1950s a return to action was made through his collaborations with singer Colleen Summers, whom he had given the stage name Mary Ford and they married in 1949.
Utilising a groundbreaking 8-track home studio system (and we need to remember this WAS groundbreaking, even the Beatles were still recording in mono some ten years later) he layered his vocals as well as his guitar.
The two of them recorded a series of top ten singles across the next five years, some of the best-remembered being How High The Moon, Mockin’ Bird Hill and Tiger Rag.
A television showcase, The Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home Show, ran between 1953 and 1960.
By 1950 Les Paul had also secured a deal with Gibson to market the “Les Paul” model solid body electric guitar; the guitarist had approached the company much earlier after the refinement of his “Log”, but shrewd business minds resisted the idea until it became clear that it was a commercially viable ‘product’.
The first Gibson Les Paul was made publicly available in 1952. Years later guitarists would sell their souls to get a Les Paul Gibson made in those early years.
After his divorce from Mary in 1963, Les Paul largely retired from recording, occasional exceptions including Les Paul Now! in 1968 and a pair of collaborative records with Chet Atkins, Chester & Lester (1976) and Guitar Monsters (1978).
In 1984 he once again resurrected his trio and initiated a weekly showcase at Fat Tuesday’s in New York City, which endured until 1996 when the hosting venue was moved to the Iridium Jazz Club.
The performances at Iridium continued until near his death, regularly featuring well-known guests from the different generations of musicians that benefited from his innovations and influence.
Album Track Listing:
|1. How High The Moon
|3. The Best Things In Life Are Free
|5. Bye Bye Blues
|6. Deep In The Blues
|7. The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
|8. I Really Don’t Want To Know
|9. Walkin’ And Whistlin’ Blues
|10.How Deep Is The Ocean (How High Is The Sky)
|11.I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
|12.Vaya Con Dios
It is often said, that you really should leave the best to last, to really drive home the point of quality.
Well that is not the case with this album where Track No.1 – How High The Moon is the first track on this album and it is, deservedly, the first track discussed.
Simply put, it is the very best track on an album of utter brilliance.
There are no superlatives that are inappropriate for this track. It is a classic example of Les Paul’s multi-tracking talent. Just listen to the amazing harmonies of Mary Ford’s voice – and oh yes Virginia, there were NO “vocal harmonizer devices” in Les’ day!
Mary Ford’s voice is just fabulous and is brilliantly showcased on this track, but Les Paul’s playing is just mind-blowing.
The silky slickness of his notes and the sound he achieved from his guitar must had many other guitarists of the day weeping.
Hell, I bet they still weep!
The track was written by Nancy Hamilton and music by Morgan Lewis. Now there were versions before and after Les Paul recorded it, in fact some sixty versions, but frankly why anyone tried after Les Paul and Mary Ford made this track their own, is beyond me, and that includes the Ella Fitzgerald version.
Needless to say it went to No.1 in the USA and also went gold!
How High The Moon
Track No.4 – Lover.
This s a very interesting track because to my ears it sounds like that Les Paul not only multi-tracked his playing, but has slowed down the tape for one of his lines, so that when played back it runs at twice the speed but perfectly in tune.
Then, he plays along with it in real-time. In fact it seemed to my ears that there were multiple layers of guitar recorded so I went searching for some facts.
It turned out that he actually recorded eight differing guitar parts. The end result is a magical piece of playing that once again demonstrates his technical prowess with both his recording and with his guitar skills were perfectly married with his ability to put “soul” into his playing.
What is stunning is that this was in fact one of his very early experiments in multi-tracking, 1949 in fact, and was never recorded with the intention of release.
However, on hearing it, Executives at Capitol were blown away and insisted it was released.
Although Les Paul did write some pieces (there are a couple on this LP) he largely drew upon the works of other great composers.
That last track, Lover, is a good example.
Written by Rogers and Hart way back in 1932 it was bought to life by Les Paul. Yet this album is also a good example of the brilliance of both Les Paul’s interpretation of other composers work and, indeed his own.
An example of his own work is Deep In The Blues, which is the final track on side 1, and it is a simply gorgeous piece of blues come jazz guitar!
Turning the album over I was utterly spoiled for choice and it was in fact a case of bringing out a glass of red wine, and settling back as I allowed the whole side to play through.
When I got to Track Number 4 – How Deep Is The Ocean, I melted.
Is this old Rock/Blues and Electronic aficionado getting soft?
I am now at the age and have enough years behind me to be able now, to sit back and appreciate a piece of work that is so smooth, so effortless and so classic! This description is just as apt for Les Paul’s playing as it is for Mary Fords vocal rendition.
Written by Irving Berlin it has been recorded a staggering one hundred and forty four times by everyone who is anyone.
To begin listing all those that have recorded and released this track would be a monumental task, and to name a only few would do those not mentioned a disservice.
It is in many ways a timeless piece of music, certainly most younger music listeners of today would not appreciate it.
But then again it is problematic that I could have appreciated it when I was engrossed in the likes of Jimmy Hendrix, the Beatles, Pink Floyd back in my younger days.
Somethings only come with time, and this track has it all!
How can I tell you what is in my heart?
How can I measure each and every part?
How can I tell you how much I love you?
How can I measure just how much I do?
How much do I love you?
I’ll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?
How many times a day
Do I think of you?
How many roses
Are sprinkled with dew?
How far would I travel
To be where you are?
How far is the journey
From here to a star?
And if I ever lost you
How much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?
How Deep Is The Ocean
Track Number 5 on Side B is I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.
This is another track which would normally not get a second listen to these days. It is unpretentious, it is not complex in structure and in fact it was written (with lyrics) in 1919!
The track is almost 100 years old, and, it was a novelty track. It has been recorded by quite a few artists but probably the most popular was the version by Doris Day in 1951.
Well Les Paul dropped the lyrics to showcase his amazing technique in his fingering, as well as his technological advancements and application.
In addition to multi-tracking and overdubbing he was very heavily into advancing tape delay and phasing effects, two widely used stage and studio effects in subsequent years, in fact right up until today.
Les was also an innovator of fingering styles such as using trills and became known for his use of unusual licks and chording.
This track more than adequately demonstrates his amazing abilities in all these facets.
I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
I don’t usually feature more than four tracks unless it is a multi-disk release or a double album, and this is not such an album.
So I had to present you one final track, track number six on the B-Side, with the appropriate title of Vaya Con Dios.
This phrase is used as a parting phrase and literally means – “Go with God”. It was first recorded by Anita O’Day in December of 195, but Les Paul and Mary Ford had a no. 1 recording of the song in 1953, a number 1 that went gold for them.
It is one of those tracks that at the right time and in the right setting will cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up.
The hauntingly beautiful blend of Les’ guitar playing and Mary’s voice is superb!
The English language is full of superlatives, and it would not be going overboard to use them all to describe the playing of Les Paul, and it is hard to imagine anyone except Mary Ford singing with him – whilst their marriage may not have lasted, the music they made together certainly will.
It certainly reminds us of a time when melody, harmony, blended beauty, was a formula for eternal music.
I wonder how much of today’s music will be as fondly remembered in some seventy years time, as this track is?
Vaya Con Dios
Les Paul was one of a kind.
He was unique in so many ways and ANY budding guitarist who is not given the opportunity of listening to his technique and reflecting on the fact that he was an innovator extraordinaire, is sadly lacking in their education.
We may not all want to play like Les Paul, hey! chances are that most of us simply wouldn’t have the ability, but, when you have such qualities as this man exhibited, they need to be absorbed as part of a complete musical education.
His list of Awards and honours is stunning and goes from 1960 when he and Mary received a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, through to being inducted in 1979 into the Grammy Hall of Fame for his recording of “How High the Moon“.
He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and in 2004 he received an Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in Engineering.
Then one year later In 2005, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his development of the solid-body electric guitar.
In 2010, he received an Honorary New York Emmy and was inducted into the Music Producers Guild for Innovation in Production and in 2011, he was ranked at #18 in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time“.
Sadly those last two awards were posthumous as Les Paul passed away on August 12, 2009 (aged 94). Mary had passed on some 32 years previously, in September 1977.
There are so many Les Paul albums and it is hard to imagine that if you purchased any one at random, you would be disappointed.
I keep this album proudly as it is such a fantastic example of all the elements that made Les Paul such an outstanding musician and innovator.
This album was released around the world on several labels, and whilst I couldn’t find another copy on the DRUM label, it is on the Capitol label and is available second hand between $10.00 and $25.00 plus postage.
Wonderfully, there are many live performances of Les Paul & Mary Ford on Youtube are in fact of them playing tracks featured in this review. It is still fantastic that these clips exist.
Alabama Bound & Darktown Strutters Ball
Big Eyed Girl & I’m Sitting On Top Of The World
I Really Don’t Want To Know
And finally – make sure you watch this one . . . .
How High The Moon
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward: