More than just a roundup of the Les Paul Trio's Decca recordings -- which by themselves wouldn't add up to a single CD, let alone two -- this 50-track set is a bewilderingly diverse compendium of Paul's adventures in show business prior to his string of hits with Mary Ford. In doing so, MCA has made amends for at least four decades of neglect, unearthing ten previously unreleased tracks as part of the deal.
The set begins with six of Paul's earliest sides backing salacious blues shouter Georgia White on acoustic guitar, and then there are four extremely rare sides of Paul doing his hillbilly Rhubarb Red act, tootling on harmonica, strumming rhythm guitar, and singing in a honeyed voice. Throughout the collection, there are extensive samplings of Paul backing several top singers from the mainstream of '40s pop -- Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, Dick Haymes, Helen Forrest, and the Delta Rhythm Boys -- his clever, caressing guitar obligatos enhancing the vocals and foreshadowing his ballad work with Ford. The trio sides form the heart of the set, but here again, there is a lot of diversity. Jazz sides like "Blue Skies" and "Dream Dust" are showcases for Paul's extraordinary melodic gift and speed, and the newly released outtakes reveal his streak of perfectionism. But there are also several sweetly sedate Hawaiian tunes and a couple of nifty country & western workouts, "Guitar Boogie" and "Steel Guitar Rag," that integrate his jazz licks into the picture. Although the sound is slightly distorted in spots and short on bass -- the "noise reduction" gremlins at MCA are at it again -- this double-disc set is still a treasure chest for Les Paul collectors
Les Paul, Bing Crosby, Terry Shand, Cal Gooden, Georgia White, Bob Meyer, Dick Haymes, Jud DeNaut, Walter Wechsler, Tom Todd, Laverne Andrews, Maxene Andrews, Patty Andrews, Abe Siegel, Clint Nordquist, Bob Armstrong, Helen Forrest, Irv Kluger, Clint Neagley, Bob Lawson, etc.