home listen reviews a-z
Mary Ford & Les Paul

(90th Birthday Edition)
• Les Paul with Mary Ford

When I interviewed Les Paul recently, he told me that the first person he played his multi-tracked guitar experiments for back in the late '40s was the legendary comedian W.C. Fields.

"He came to my garage to make a little record," Les recalled. "I played him the acetate of 'Lover' that I'd done. When he heard it, he said, 'My boy, you sound like an octopus.'"

Fields's joke is a good description. On this collection, sprightly instrumental pieces such as "Nola," "Whispering," "Lady Of Spain," and "Brazil" come across like a guitar being played by eight hands--or tentacles--at once. Using studio techniques that he invented, such as multi-layering, echo, and sped-up tracks, Les creates a kaleidoscopic wonderland, unlike anything committed to record, before or since. Beyond the sheer novelty of his signature sound, he was also a player with amazing chops and taste.

And he had the sense to know that he'd reach a lot more listeners if he paired up with a Lady Octopus. The underrated Mary Ford wasn't a showy singer, but she had tremendous warmth, plus a kind of button-down sweater sexiness about her style that puts you in mind of a country-ish Doris Day. Listen to "Vaya Con Dios" and "Tennessee Waltz" and see if you don't fall in love with her. Taking advantage of her husband's multi-track invention, Mary built her own sweet towers of harmony. "Bye Bye Blues" and "How High The Moon" are just two of the tour de forces here that show her ear for complex vocal arrangements and the precision with which she could deliver them. Remember too, this was decades before artists like Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Prince would stack themselves into choirs.

Along with the duo's greatest hits, there's a fifteen-minute excerpt from the radio program The Les Paul Show, in which you get a fun little lesson in how their multi-tracked records were put together.

With extensive track-by-track liner notes by Les, this is an essential addition to anyone's collection.
• Bill DeMain

return to covers      listen to clips      buy it here

more about Les    

puremusic home