Les Paul

American Made World Played

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At the age of 90, Les Paul issued his first newly recorded album in 27 years (the last one being his collaboration with Chet Atkins, Chester & Lester, in 1978), and it's a classic rock guitar version of the Frank Sinatra Duets projects, which is to say that, on most tracks, Paul is joined by superstar friends, most of them guitarists, who have overdubbed their parts elsewhere. The list of guitarists is truly stupendous -- Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Rick Derringer, Peter Frampton, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Buddy Guy, Steve Miller, Joe Perry, Keith Richards, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Neal Schon, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. As if that weren't enough, the featured vocalists include Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, Johnny Rzeznik of Goo Goo Dolls, Sting, Joss Stone, and Edgar Winter. And the sidemen are equally stellar (if better known among their peers than to the general public), including guitarist Steve Lukather, bassists Nathan East and Will Lee, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. So, there is no problem with chops here. If there is a problem, it is with the disembodied nature of the project, which, in one of those misguided and ghoulish record company decisions, even includes two vocals by Sam Cooke, who died in 1964, stripped of their accompanying instrumental tracks, with new ones built up. While the album is a celebration of Paul, and there are some endearing excerpts from the old Les Paul & Mary Ford radio show, as well as a home tape of family friend Steve Miller as a five-year-old, the old master himself only really shines on the numbers lacking the superstars, a strong version of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and "69 Freedom Special." Otherwise, the album is more about what a couple of generations of rock guitarists have done with Paul's signature Gibson guitar model than it is about Paul himself.

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