26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 1999
Chet Atkins reminds me of my father who used to play every evening in the living room after dinner. He'd listen to this album, get a good laugh, and start playing Caravan or Avalon. I have not seen my father for 20 years now but this record reminds me of those days. Days when I'd rather watch TV instead of listen to dad's picking. Days when country music was definitely not for a 10- or 11-year old growing up in southern California. Now that I have kids with whom I'd like to spend more of my time with, I realize the plain simple fun that my father was trying to have. He wasn't professional, but when he played with friends or relatives, it sounded like the fun Chet and Les are having on this album. I'd really like to dedicate this review to my father who lives somewhere in the US. We've lost contact for the last 20-some years, but I know he's listening to the analog version of this album very often. It was his favorite and now I know why.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2007
Suberb picking by two masters of the electric guitar. Among my favorite guitar players I would rank Jackie King, James Burton, Mark Knofler, Bierelli Legrande, Earl Klugh, Charlie Byrd, Philip Cathrine and Tony Rice. Ask any of these greats and I'm confident each would site both Chet Atkins and Les Paul as their most signifacant influences. You really can't argue with that. Afterall Les Paul virtually invented the solid body electric guitar. And it doesn't stop there. His electronic wizardry made multi-tracking possible, along with a host of technical innovations. And who had more impact as a virtuoso instumentalist among these guitar giants than Chet Atkins? The list of artist he accompanied is almost endless. Yes, seemingly everyone from Elvis to Dolly Parton were backed by Chet. His beautiful understated style of picking set the standard for a whole generation of players and is still evident today.
Chester & Lester re-released after more than twenty years, brings together these two titans of the electric guitar. And boy oh boy does it work. These guys sound as if they were born to play together. There simply is not a bad track on this session. The remastered sound, the insightful liner notes and the bonus material all make this an absolutely essential recording. If you can't get into the toe-tapping groove of these two masters, then perhaps you ought to pick up on some Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, Black Sabath or Vanilla Fudge. Turn the volume way up and drown your ears in a wash of psychadellic noise. I'm not knocking any of those artists, but in my opinion they've got a whole lot to learn from the likes of Chester and Lester.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2007
Chester & Lester has been reissued simultaneously with The Essential Chet Atkins in an expanded edition. Recorded in 1975 when Paul, best known to the rock generation as a guitar designer, was sixty years old and had been pretty much retired from active playing for the previous decade. Atkins, eleven years younger, had listened to Paul on the radio as a youngster and tried to figure out what he was doing, much as Vince Gill and others later did with Atkins.
When Chet coaxed Les into a Nashville studio, the resulting album captured the two musical giants sitting around playing standards, joking and having a good ole time, making it up as they went along and producing truly transcendent music. The guitar playing is simply delicious as they trade licks and tricks and goose one another with surprising turns of phrase, sometimes breaking into laughter in the middle of a song.
Chester & Lester is a gas. These guys did things with electric guitars that over-amplified hotshots could not even imagine. Here they give a master class in the art of guitar playing.
copyright © 2007 Port Folio Weekly/Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Originally published in Port Folio Weekly - August 14, 2007
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2009
Les Paul died today. And all the television networks ended their nightly news with tributes to "the guitar legend." [CBS I think, did the best tribute; followed by NBC's (slightly longer) appreciation; the ABC News tribute to Les Paul was shorter, but well-done too.] All three networks spoke dutifully about his two technical achievements: the Les Paul signature model electric guitar(s) and of his pioneering work in multi-track recording (the first 'AMPEX' 8 track, built to his specs).
The most endearing comment (I thought) came from 70s rocker Steve Miller, who recalled the time when he was "only five years old" and Les Paul (who knew his parents) showed him some licks on the guitar: "He and Mary Ford BOTH showed me (some chords). I never forgot that!"
Les Paul's recollection (of same): "One day -- he must have been 5 years old -- Steve said to me, 'Are you Mr. Paul?' I said yes. He was looking at my guitar and I asked him, 'Do you play guitar?' And he said, 'A little bit.' So I handed him my guitar and he played it and I said, 'Gee, you're good. Someday you'll be doing what I'm doing.' I was his mentor . . . but then I watched him take everything he admired and copied and learned and become Steve Miller. He's a very, very good blues guitarist."
Chet Atkins, who lured Les Paul back into the studio for these Grammy-winning recordings, said he and Les were influenced by the "fire" of the Belgian jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt; Chet (who told this reviewer during a 1971 radio interview, that "the only person I ever asked for an autograph was Django,") Chet always insisted that, from the start of Les Paul's career in 1937, "Django had something to do with the fire -- the Gypsy fire, with which Les plays."
Chet recalled (with a laugh) his own "first (1940s) meeting" with Les Paul: "I was working in Springfield, Missouri, on (radio station) KWTO . . . playing a (live) show around noon, when people were allowed to gather around the studio to watch us.
"I noticed an awfully nice looking guy watching me like a hawk. I thought he was a fan, so I decided to knock him out with a few hot licks - licks I'd `borrowed' from Les Paul (radio performances). I admired Les Paul very much, and when I started to show off in those days, I'd usually play some of his licks. And so I started playing Les Paul licks for this `fan.'
"After the show went off the air, this guy came into the studio and said, "Are you Chet Atkins? I'm Les Paul!"
It took another thirty years before the two men went into the recording studio together to make this album: included were songs each had recorded independently, in the intervening decades. One of Amazon's editorial writers, Rich Kienzle, summed up (a decade ago) what made this album Les & Chet's finest hour:
"In some cases, such as `It's Been a Long, Long Time' for Les, and `Hot Toddy' for Chet, they revisited songs they recorded years earlier. Les, downplaying his electronic wizardry, proved that he didn't need it to dazzle. Chet, who'd come to favor sterile perfection over passion, unleashed his old intensity in the presence of a fellow virtuoso."
In his original vinyl album liner notes (you'd need a microscope to read them on the CD) jazz writer Nat Hentoff recalled the "infectiously informal aura" of this recording session - "conceived some months before this recording in Nashville, while Chet was in New York for a tour by Arthur Fiedler.
"Les was also in the city and the two enjoyed a long afternoon (playing guitars) in a room at the Hotel Warwick. So good and fulfilling a time was had by all, that this album was the logical (outcome)."
Prophetically, (his notes were written in 1976) Nat Hentoff concluded that,
"What's happening here is a high-spirited jamming - the meeting of two mighty peers, each of whom has helped expand the possibilities of the guitar.
"I expect there are going to be young pickers, in different towns and countries, playing parts of this set again and again so they can steal the licks. And that, after all, is how culture is transmitted.
"Meanwhile, for all of us who aren't pickers, the kicks are also found in the wizardry of it all - hearing the sounds of surprise [in] the regeneration of these tunes."
NOTE: This album "Chester & Lester" -- and its follow-up, "Guitar Monsters" -- was briefly available as a 2-in-1 `import' CD from BMG Japan; it's worth paying twice the money to get yourself that album, which has double the fun!
A personal favorite (a very funny song) was co-written by Chet, titled, "I'm Your Greatest Fan," with spoken introductions to snatches of popular songs played by guitarists OTHER than Chet & Les; the two ridicule each other's playing, pretending to recall famous, best-selling melodies (made popular in the 60s by others -- but never recorded by EITHER Chet or Les; so each plays fractured versions of songs like "Guitar Boogie" and "Raunchy" - while claiming to have "loved your version of that one!"
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2008
Whether you are a guitar player or just love to hear the subtle nuances of this instrument, this CD is for you.
Some reviewers disliked the talking in the CD, but that's what it was all about; two master collaborating on the music. Not only does the verbal banter between these two gentlemen add to the mix, but the banter between them musically places them equally among the masters of improvisation.
The art of musical call and response bouncing back and forth between them while thoughfully contributing to the music has separated them from us mere guitar-playing mortals.
Sit back and enjoy listening to these two masters. For those of us who have been in a recording studio, we can just smile and say, "You would have to be there to appreciate it".