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Les Paul and Friends: Tribute to a Legend

Review by Gary Hill

When you hear “tribute album” you usually think of a disc that features a number of artists playing songs by the artist to whom the disc is being dedicated. Well, this one has a bit of a twist. Perhaps Slash (ex-Guns N Roses guitarist) who is featured on this disc explained the concept best, “This is a record where instead of playing Les Paul's music and trying to imitate his inimitable style, it is a showcase of guitar players doing their own thing, but in tribute to his influence on our musicianship, recording techniques and use of effects. All of which wouldn't be anything like what they are if it weren't for Les Paul's creative and technical pioneering genius. And, at 93 yrs old he is still as obsessed with pioneering as many new gadgets & techniques to make life more interesting, as he always has been.”

That pretty well sums up the concept. You need to understand that at 93 Les Paul also plays on most of the tracks here, too. Other notables include, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Frampton, Joan Osborne, Edgar Winter, Joe Perry and Richie Sambora – to name just a few. All in all this is a killer album. My only real complaint is that the closing number seems a bit too mundane for the rest of the stuff here. It would have probably worked alright in a less conspicuous slot, but seems a bit of a let down as the closing shot.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Good Luck You're Having - Featuring Joe Bonamassa
I’ve yet to pick up a CD by Bonamassa, but frankly that’s my loss. Every time I’ve heard this guy on the radio I’ve been blown away. To me the guy seems to combine a more faithful blues aesthetic with the thundering hard sounds that Led Zeppelin brought to the fore. The result is awesome and this track is no exception. It’s a screamer and a great way to start things off in style. The guitar solos on this are just plain incredible.

The Walls Came Tumbling Down – Featuring Hiram Bullock
Here we get a more old school blues sound that still has some of that modern hard-edged texture. The organ on this really does a great job of contributing to a vintage sound. The guitar soloing on this track, while perhaps not as incendiary as on the last, is exceptionally tasty.

I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You – Featuring Joan Osborne
This is nowhere near as hard edged at the tracks that preceded it. There are still some vintage organ sounds to be heard here and this almost has a country music goes blues texture. There’s a definite soulful air to it, as well.                   

All I Want Is You - Featuring Johnny Rzeznik
No matter who is doing this song, it sounds like U2. Peter Frampton adds his guitar stylings to the number. There are a couple little proggy interludes set into this number.

Slippin' Into Darkness - Featuring Lisa Fischer
This starts off a bit tentatively, but when it kicks in we have a funky sort of soulful jam that’s just plain tasty. This is actually one of my favorite cuts on show here. It’s not flashy, but it sure is cool! There’s a killer jazz meets blues jam in the middle of this. A nice extended harmonica solo ends the track.

Freedom Special – Featuring Les Paul And Friends
The killer riff that opens this calls to mind Red Hot Chili Peppers meets Hendrix. They shift it out into a jam that’s closer to Sly and the Family Stone merging with Santana. This is another that’s just plain awesome. Edgar Winter adds his saxophone to this in the form of a solo. This whole thing really turns into a jazz tour-de-force that still has some definite 1970’s rock leanings. It’s another highlight of the disc.

Vocalise - Featuring Slash
When I saw that we get treated to a song featuring one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Slash, I figured it would be a real rocker. Well, this is a mellow jazzy instrumental that’s quite tasty. Still, Slash manages to rock out tastefully in his guitar soloing. He’s one of those guys who always seems to know just what to play – and he pays attention to the song and doesn’t over power, even when he shreds – as here. This is definitely another of my favorites on show here. It turns a bit harder rocking as it carries on and at times feels a bit like Pink Floyd.

I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know- Featuring Mick Hucknall
Here we have a more traditional, mellow blues jam. This is tasty and quite cool, reminding me a bit of something from Gary Moore. At times the vocals make me think of Rod Stewart. Joe Perry adds his guitar sounds to this tune.

How Long – Featuring Jeff Golub
I always loved this song when Ace did it. This version is a bit jazzier, but also quite cool. My only complaint, the only vocals on this are the chorus. Other vocals are played by the guitar instead.

Great Hall Of Fame - Featuring Richie Sambora
I’m not overly crazy about this cut. It feels like something you might expect from Joe Cocker. It’s not bad, it’s just that it’s a bit of a let down from the rest of the disc. I don’t think I would have closed off with this tune. Still, the guitar soloing, as one might expect, is top-notch.

 
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