The silky smooth vocals of Mary Ford blended with the brilliant playing skills of Les Paul produced some of the best pop music of the '50s. On the Legendary Duo at Their Best box set, six of the albums they released between 1950 and 1957 are represented on three CDs. This is a high point for both musicians, as their work together was a perfect fit and their careers before and after this period was never as good as what is here. Starting with 1950's The Hitmakers, the collection showcases some of the best work the duo ever did. Performing in a country style, Paul shines on this album, as his unique ringing guitar and nimble fingers sound absolutely beautiful. The second half of this disc is dedicated to Time to Dream, the commercially disappointing 1957 recording that signaled the beginning of the end for their partnership. It is a far more relaxed affair than anything else on the set, Paul's flashy playing takes a backseat to careful strumming and sappy ballads. The album is alright, but compared to everything else in the collection it falls below their standard. The second disc features Bye Bye Blues and Les and Mary, two fantastic albums that may represent their best moments in music. Both albums are very similar, as they have an equal mix of Paul's inspirational guitar technique and Ford's expressive vocals. The smoother production and poppier material help this maintain its quality, and best of all it includes "Mammy's Boogie," a burst of brilliant guitar fury that stands with Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" and Van Halen's "Eruption" as one of the most important technical moments in guitar history. The last disc contains the two volumes of The New Sound, the albums that practically introduced Paul and Ford to the public. The first volume features only Paul, and is one of the great guitar albums of the decade. His skill and ability never fails to amaze, even today he still sounds like the future of guitar. The second volume was the first to feature Ford, and it may be her best performance on the set. Her breathy vocals on "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" are nothing short of great, displaying her skill for setting up a mood to display Paul's incredible flourishes. The set may not be great from front to back, but these recordings are a must for any follower of guitar history, as well as anyone who is interested to hear one of the most charismatic guitarists of the 20th century at his prime.
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AllMusic Review by Bradley Torreano
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
Track Listing - Disc 3