By Jennifer Odell
If you're craving new Les Paul tunes, the fourth generation release, Now! , is not where you'll find them. Not because it's not a great albumit is. Classical artist Michael J. Dutton's remastering allows you to hear more delicate elements of the different guitars' various tones and textures. But this album was originally conceived as a compilation for Les Paul. And now the compilation has been released three times without changing much.
Most of the tracks on Now! first appeared on a variety of Capitol recordings from the '50s. Some of the tracks included the soft, twangy voice of Paul's former wife, Mary Ford. In 1967, when Paul was working on Now! and had divorced Ford, he rearranged the tunes she had sung on and recorded them again without her. Little else distinguished the 1968 compilation LP's music from the original recordings. In 1979, the album was released again, this time under the title Multi-Trackin'. Again, the music was basically the same.
25 years later, Dutton's work on this collection does create a new layer of nuances to Les Paul's recorded sound, albeit a subtle one. For example, "Lover,"? written in 1947 for eight electric guitars, remains a celebration of technique and the remastering makes it sound as if it's being performed in your living room. "Lady of Spain"? and "Golden Earrings"? are still great and "Los Angeles"? rocks out, distinguishing it from most of his work.
If you haven't already heard Now! , maybe now is the time to check it out. Besides the enhanced sound quality, the original liner notes that accompany the disc provide an informative look back at the nature of Paul's innovations on guitar. Though dated, the notes remain fresh in the sense that when they were first written, Les Paul was not the same stuff of legend that he is today. But your money might be better spent checking out the master in action on a Monday night at the Iridium than on another re-re-issue.