Chet Atkins

Chet Picks on the Pops

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It was considered a badge of honor for a pop artist to play with the Boston Pops in Arthur Fiedler's day -- a sure sign that he or she had made it -- and Fiedler could make nearly any improbable combination of artists and styles sound zesty and original. Nevertheless, it is still surprising how well this experiment works, despite the formulaic driving idea (symphonic treatments of '60s pop hits). For that, one can thank Atkins' superb taste; Fiedler's enthusiasm; some good, idiomatically sweeping sympho-pop arrangements by Boston Pops stalwart Richard Hayman; and the fabulously resonant acoustics of Boston's Symphony Hall. With a twist or two of the harmonies and some tasty echo delay work, Chet turns Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe" into a haunting piece of work, just as effective in its way as the original hit single. "Wimoweh" lifts off with a fine kicking beat and some pithy finger-picking, and as the sole nod to Atkins' Tennessee roots, the LP concludes with a medley of "The Battle of New Orleans" and "Sugarfoot Rag" that is both inflated and loads of fun. The nice thing about this album -- the second Atkins/Fiedler session -- is that it is a collaboration, not just a star solo turn with orchestral backing, with Atkins fitting comfortably into the Boston Pops' then-distinctive sound.

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