The title of “legend” gets tossed around a lot by music critics. I myself plead guilty as charged to the overuse of the term. But no matter how you look at it, shake it up, smell it and pour it back out, there’s no denying the fact that 93 year-old Les Paul is indeed a living legend, and a real hero to all of us who ever played a guitar or drooled over a Gold Top in the window of a pawn shop.
This tribute is both well deserved and a long time coming for a man who designed the most classic guitar in rock and roll, the Gibson Les Paul. And let’s not forget his innovations in sound recording and his brilliant career, beginning in the 1940’s, as a recording artist. Everyone from Dickey Betts to Warren Haynes has spoken with reverence and respect about the great Les Paul.
Red hot blues player Joe Bonamassa jams hot and heavy with Paul on “The Good Luck You’re Having,” and Hiram Bulloch sings the super soulful blues on “The Walls Came Tumbling Down.”
One of rock’s most beautiful female voices, Joan Osbourne, sings “I Don’t Wanna Be with Nobody But You,” with Les and Hiram on guitars. No Fenders allowed.
The album features an A-list of studio talent and straight up rockers like Slash, Johnny Rzeznik, Peter Frampton, Joe Perry, Edgar Winter, Will Lee, Jeff Lolub, Kenny Arnoff, Richie Sambora, and many others.
One of the many high points of the album is Johnny Rzeznik’s smooth vocal on the U2 song “All I Want is You, “ backed on guitars by Johnny himself, Frampton and Paul. Very nice.
Lisa Fischer brings the soul out on the War classic “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” with long time Johnny Winter sideman Jon Paris providing some sweet harmonica.
“69 Freedom Special” is a funkified instrumental jam, featuring Les, Hiram and Barry Goldstein on the Gibsons, and Edgar Winter blowing sax. The slow jam instrumental “Vocalise” follows, finding hard rocker Slash simply smoking on some very jazzy riffs. Cool. Oh, and studio wizard Jeff Golub turns in an amazing semi-instrumental rendition of the old Ace song, “How Long.” It don’t get no better.
If you play guitar, love guitar, or just love some good music, you need to check out A Tribute to a Legend. It’s the real deal, brothers and sisters. Oh, and happy belated (June 9th) birthday Les. I hope you are still pickin’ for years to come.
-Michael Buffalo Smith