1. How High The Moon?
2. Blue Skies
3. Dark Eyes
4. Sweet Leilani
5. Steel Guitar Rag
6. It's Been A Long, Long Time
9. Rumours Are Flying
10. Hip-Billy Boogie
11. What Is This Thing Called Love?
13. The Tennessee Waltz
15. Mockin' Bird Hill
17. In The Good Old Summertime
18. Little Rock Getaway
19. Just One More Chance
20. Chicken Reel
21. The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
23. Tiger Rag
25. Bye-Bye Blues
26. Meet Mister Callaghan
27. I'm Sitting On Top Of The World
28. Lady Of Spain
29. I'm A Fool To Care
31. Vaya Con Dios
Les Paul - Guitars
Mary Ford - Vocals (tracks 1, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31)
Milt Raskin - Piano (tracks 2, 3)
Cal Gooden, Jr. - Guitar (tracks 2-4, 6)
Clint Nordquist - Double bass (tracks 2-4, 6)
Bob Armstrong - Piano (track 4)
Paul Smith - Piano (track 5)
Bob Meyer - Double bass (track 5)
Tony Rinaldo - Drums (track 5)
Bing Crosby - Vocals (track 6)
The Andrews Sisters - Vocals (track 9)
Right from the start, this compilation fills me with nostalgia. The opening How High the Moon? was etched into my mind when disc jockey Jack Jackson played it nearly every week for a long period during 1950 in his late-night record show on BBC Radio. It was certainly a memorable recording, with Les Paul multi-tracking his guitars, and his wife, Mary Ford, adding multi-tracked vocals in Les's brilliant arrangement of a bebop anthem. It swung like mad and the multifarious guitars created a magical montage which was - and still is - unforgettable.
After How High The Moon?, this collection jumps back to 1944-47, when Les Paul recorded with a trio which showed what a jazzman he was (although Steel Guitar Rag is more in country-and-western style). Les had proved his jazz credentials in the recording of a 1944 Jazz at the Philharmonic concert, where he duelled with Nat "King" Cole in splendid call-and-response. He continued to perform as a jazz guitarist right up to his death in 2009.
This album also includes It's Been A Long, Long Time recorded in 1945 with Bing Crosby, and Rumours Are Flying from the following year with the Andrews Sisters. All the other tracks are instrumentals by Les and his multiple guitars, with or without Mary Ford. These were not only superbly clever but also heartily swinging as well as commercially appealing. The title-track ,Vaya Con Dios, topped the Billboard singles charts for several weeks.
Every track displays Paul's expertise in overdubbing one track on top of another, with a precision that has hardly ever been matched. Outstanding examples include Lover, which doubles the tempo after the first chorus from a lilting waltz to a frenetic four-in-a-bar; What Is This Thing Called Love?, which sets a juddering guitar against a multi-faceted backing; and Little Rock Getaway, which makes the guitars sound as if they are playing under water. Mary Ford's sweet vocals add extra appeal to such tracks as The Tennessee Waltz, Mockin' Bird Hill (which was a million-seller), and Bye-Bye Blues.
Les Paul was a remarkably inventive man, credited with inventing the solid electric guitar as well as pioneering many recording techniques. It may be difficult for me to have an objective view about these recordings, since as a teenager I bought most of them as soon as they were released on 78-rpm discs. But hearing them again convinces me that I was right to be smitten by their ingenuity, swing and melodiousness. If you haven't yet become acquainted with the wondrous sound of Les Paul and Mary Ford, delay no longer. The 77 minutes of this generous CD make an ideal introduction.