Sleeve Notes - Guitar Galaxies and Guitars Galore:
Over the last few decades the guitar has come very much to the fore in the music world, both classical and out and out "pop". Here, in the full power of Perfect Presence Sound, Mercury present, under the expert guidance of George Barnes, a complete orchestra of guitars.
It is very fitting that this session should have been given to the care of George Barnes, for one of his chief aims in life has been to establish the instrument as a solo one equally acceptable to listeners as the trumpet, clarinet or saxophone. This doesn't mean that he advocates the removal of the instrument from the rhythm section; he would prefer to see musical organisations using a solo guitar and a rhythm guitar. In his group work, Barnes frequently switches back and forth between solo and rhythm work.
Over the years, George Barnes has firmly established a reputation as a guitar virtuoso with impeccable technique, full of spectacular new ideas on playing and interpretation.
His musical life started in 1927 when he reached the age of six. In those days his chosen instrument was the piano. Within a few years, however, the bleak time of depression hit his home town of Chicago Heights, Illinois, and young George learnt that you can't eat pianos, so bread was bought with the proceeds of the boy's piano. Undaunted, he found an old battered guitar and was soon supplementing the family income by playing at local social functions. At twelve he joined the musicians' union and set to work professionally with a trio in Hammond, Indiana. By 1935 he had learned to play the blues and his work is to be heard on countless old 78 rpm discs, backing blind John Davis and Memphis Minnie. This activity in the blues field took him to Chicago in 1939 and he made a sensation in a star-studded bill at the Off-Beat Club. The same year took him into radio and he joined the staff of NBC.
The inevitable period of war service followed, until 1945 when he returned to Chicago and a job with the American Broadcasting Company. He organised an octet with an unusual instrumentation that approached symphonic proportions, less the strings. His eight players, by doubling, had at their disposal clarinet, bass clarinet, bass saxophone, alto saxophone, English horn, oboe, flute, piccolo, piano, vibraphone, bass and drums. Barnes, leading the group with his guitar, was responsible for the novel and interesting arrangements of well-known melodies. The octet became a regular three times weekly feature over ABC radio, until late 1951, when Barnes decided to move to New York City to freelance in the radio, television and recording fields. For the past decade he has been a much-in-demand artist, whose services are frequently called upon in the areas of guitar composition, arranging and playing.
Barnes' unique organisational talents, as evidenced by his Chicago octet, make him an idealleader for Guitar Galaxies. Using Latin tunes and the modern techniques of stereophonic recording, Barnes has produced a startling array of sound combinations. He has artistically and mechanically developed unique effects, using a wide variety of percussive instruments to complement the tones derived from the eleven guitars. The familiarity of the standard Latin tunes selected adds melodic shading to the overall percussion sound.
In making this record Barnes kept a "dance band" tonal range format in mind. The guitar choir produces an orchestral effect by having a "reed" section on the left and a "brass" section on the right, each with their own standard rhythm section. On the left, guitar 1 corresponds to the first alto saxophone, guitar 2 the third alto saxophone, guitar 3 to the first tenor, guitar 4 to the second tenor and guitar 5 to the baritone saxophone. On the right guitar 1 corresponds to the first trumpet, 2 to the second trumpet, 3 to the third trumpet or first trombone, 4 to the second trombone and 5 to the bass trombone.
The line up for the session was nine guitars and one rhythm guitar, piano and celeste, xylophones and marimbas, string bass, drums, bongos, together with an assortment of timbales, maracas, tambourine and casabas (gourd with beads). In the number When Yuba, Plays The Rhumba On The Tuba, there are also chromatic bongos and in Tequila, tenor and baritone ukuleles.
This Mercury record has much to offer several different groups of listeners. As a percussion record it qualifies as an ideal test for the high fidelity fan's equipment. The sharp wave fronts of the many plucked strings provide a severe test of the treble part of your loudspeaker, or your tweeter, if you have separate woofer / tweeters.
Those who are particularly fond of the guitar will find this record of unusual interest; not only for the striking solo work, but also for the interesting and original ensemble combinations created from the George Barnes scores.
To those who are partial to Latin music, this set presents an unusual, yet authentic, reproduction of the tunes.
It is a step forward in Barnes' life-long campaign to raise the popularity of the guitar to even greater heights than it has already attained.
The development of recording techniques over the last two decades has been so rapid. and the production of records increased so vastly that the poor record listener is left asking, 'What else can they do?" This has been a problem for the record producers and for the arrangers and the artists as well. This has meant, on a number of occasions, that experiments have been made for the sake of experimenting, but when experiments are made for the sake of the music itself, they can be among the most rewarding of experiences. One of 'he facets of this search for experimentation has been a return to what are best described as rhythmic instruments; the drums, the pianos and the strummed strings of the guitar. In this very much guitar conscious day, George Barnes, more successful than anyone else, has understood what can be done with this, one of the latest and most popular music making articles of the world. Already in 'Guitar Galaxies' (Mercury CIVIS 18052), he presented his guitar choir, a full orchestra playing special works designed to exploit not only the full potential of the instrument but to take advantage of every conceivable possibility permitted by up-to-date recording techniques.
On this LP, he once again presents further important and interesting developments in the art of musical projection.
An outstanding 'first', musically speaking, is the employment of guitars and amplifiers especially designed to expand the tonal range of the choir. Contrast and integration are aided by the use of three featured soloists
Clark Terry, trumpet and flugel horn; Hank D'amico, clarinet; and AI Cohn, tenor saxophone.
Four guitars, tuned in the key of 'F, designed by Barnes, were built for this session by the Guild Guitar Company. As Barnes explains, the F guitar offers a range pitched four notes higher than the standard guitar range making it possible to play with the trumpets even up to F above high C. Leader Barnes used the F guitar throughout the date.
Several years ago Barnes had the opportunity to use a special reverberative chamber. The result was something similar to the pizzicato effect of strings in a large hall. As he was planning 'Guitars Galore', he remembered the effect and ordered portable reverberation amplifiers. Their use was controlled by individual foot switches with each unit.The reverberation, tremolo and reverberation-tremolo could be turned off and on at will by the player's foot. The ordinary vibrato effects of playing on a stringed instrument are enhanced by the colour derived from these more versatile amplifiers.
One has begun to become rather worried at the exploitation of the form of popular music, which our century has christened with the name 'standard'. Every singer has recorded 'X' title and, most of the time, sounded like every other singer singing 'X' title. Instrumentally, variations on a standard theme frequently become so remote that you cannot remember what the theme was.
George Barnes, however, with his two-sided knowledge of the technical and the artistic, approaches the many standards on this LP with the particular gift of being able to extract from them an individual interpretation which enhances all the basic qualities of the composer's original conception, and develops it into a highly individual and rewarding interpretation.
'Guitars Galore' equates, quite simply, enjoyment galore.
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