Les Paul

Is it possible to be a household name, yet still be considered underrated? Everyone knows the Les Paul guitar, but not nearly enough have heard the man’s music. With his wife, vocalist Mary Ford, Paul combined country and jazz to produce an early form of rock’n’roll. Not to mention dream pop.


  • Les Paul’s New Sound, Vol. 2 (1951), A
    • Country in name only, this vastly underrated LP is a sublime combination of rock ‘n’ roll, dream pop and jazzy improvisation. Les Paul’s place in music history hasn’t been forgotten, but his innovative sounds unfortunately have.Paul’s guitar playing is cerebral, but the vocal melodies of spouse Mary Ford are what truly make this record timeless. Whether rave-up (“In the Good Old Summer Time”) or slow-moving ballad (“The Lonesome Road”), Ford’s voice has a stunning sense of control only equalled by her husband’s pioneering fretwork. This album could rewrite music history if only it were more widely exposed.
  • Bye Bye Blues (1952), A-
    • The proceedings are somewhat lazier than usual but that doesn’t stop “Smoke Rings” from being the dreamiest thing the husband-wife duo ever put on record.
  • The Hit Makers! (1953), A-
    • The duo’s cover of “How High the Moon” may be their finest recorded moment ever, while the rest of the LP is Paul & Ford as usual — beyond-perfect vocal melodies backed by unbelievable guitar. An early benefactor of multitrack recording, Ford’s extensive use of doubling gives her singing a dreamy clarity, while hubby Les is able to conjure a miniature jazz band from his guitar layering.
  • Les and Mary (1955), A-
    • Dreamy country pop. I never knew I needed it in my life, but I’m glad I’ve found it. And I think the husband-wife duo of Les Paul and Mary Ford may be the only ones who ever had it. Les and Mary puts more emphasis on the “pop” than usual, though Paul’s adroit guitar techniques makes this some of the dreamiest music ever recorded. As always, country in name only.
  • Time to Dream (1957), B
    • Time to retire? Mary Ford sounds, well, older, and even Les’ riffs are less inventive than usual.