The Guitar Genius is one strange album -- good, but strange -- beginning with its title. Of course there's plenty of guitar here, but there's also a surprising number of pieces that rely on vocals. It opens up with Chet Atkins' delightfully bluesy instrumental rendition of "Heartbreak Hotel," a song on whose original recording session with Elvis Presley he played -- he adds enough wrinkles of his own to it to make it work as an instrumental. From there, however, this album is somewhat of a very mixed stylistic bag, proceeding with a pop-style rendition (complete with vocal, and dizzying string pyrotechnics) of "Swanee River"; a sound effects- and vocal-laden rendition of "Blackjack" is more distracting than anything else, despite the high standard of playing -- much better is "I'll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time," which forces a vocal (albeit a very tasteful one) on you for part of its length but gives you enough solo guitar to impress; "Out of Nowhere" is patterned similarly, but "It's Now or Never" is purely instrumental.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder