The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett: The Best Of

50GuitarsOfTommyGarrett_BestOfSpace-age bachelor pad guitar instrumentals from Snuff Garrett

Anyone who’s spent time shopping for vintage vinyl in thrift stores has come across one of Tommy Garrett’s two-dozen albums. What most of these shoppers never realize is that “Tommy Garrett” is better known as Snuff Garrett, famed producer of Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Cher and many others. As a sideline to his more renowned production work, Garrett assembled “an orchestra of guitars” to record dozens of instrumental albums, highlighted on the first two (South of the Border and South of the Border Volume 2) by the fretwork of Brazilian legend Laurindo Almeida, and in many of the remaining sessions by Wrecking Crew regular Tommy Tedesco.

These instrumentals are classic space age bachelor pad music, lushly arranged, wide-stereo productions of material drawn from the pop charts, bossa novas, sambas, exotica, film soundtracks, tin pan alley and Broadway. Although there is often a studio full of guitars strumming away, the promise of “an orchestra of guitars” is somewhat misleading, as the guitar-led arrangements also include percussion and horns. The Best of the 50 Guitars, clocking in at 33 minutes, was originally issued by Liberty in 1968, and focuses on Latin-influenced titles from 1961 (“Guadalajara”) through 1968 (“La Negra” and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”).

50GuitarsOfTommyGarrett_BestOfVol2The Best of the 50 Guitars Volume 2, originally a double album (and clocking in at a generous 58 minutes), was also released by Liberty in 1968. But where the first volume stuck to Latin titles, volume two broadens its selections to include the ersatz “Mexican Shuffle,” the Three Suns’ (and later, Platters’) “Twilight Time,” Bacharach & David’s “This Guy’s in Love With You,” the 1930’s waltz “Fascination,” the pop hits “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” and the film titles “Lara’s Theme” and “Born Free.” All are rendered in the lush 50 Guitars style, with virtuosic lead guitars that favor Latin flavors.

Varese’s reissues include the original track lists (remastered by Steve Massie) and cover art, and new liners by Laurence Zwisohn. These are a good place to get a taste of the 50 Guitars, which will likely be enough guitar-based easy listening music for many. Completists (and you know you’re out there), will need to pick up resissues of original albums (e.g., 1 2 3 4) and head back to the thrift stores until Bear Family picks through all the outtakes, assembles a hundred page book and issues the Complete Sessions of the 50 Guitars. These two volumes will help you pleasantly while away the hours while you wait. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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