The album cover would seem to say it all —
but the liner notes reveal that this is not just any ordinary guitar army:
This album was recorded in France. It spotlights the work of five of France’s outstanding guitarists: Francis Le Maguer (musical director), Pierre Cullaz, Raymond Gimenes, Paul Piguillem, and Victor Apicella. This is the first record on which they have played together as an orchestra. These five guitarists form the “Barclay Stars Orchestra” in which the guitars play the trumpet, trombone and saxophone parts of a conventional orchestra.
Although this 1966 album proudly bears the Atco imprint from front to back, Atlantic Records is simply serving as the American distributor for a work that was originally recorded in Paris by Barclay Records in glorious monophonic sound (for best results, observe the R.I.A.A. high frequency roll off characteristic with a 500 cycle crossover).
The album leans heavily toward traditional jazz, with a healthy dollop of Duke Ellington (“In a Mellow Tone”; “Sophisticated Lady”; “Satin Doll” & Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train”) and a pinch of Woody Herman (“Early Autumn”), balanced by more contemporary fare via Neal Hefti (“Flight of the Foo Birds” & “Fantail”) and Horace Silver (“Opus de Funk”).
Check out this toe-tapping jazz standard, “Four Brothers,” composed by Jimmy Guiffre and brought to life originally by the Woody Herman Orchestra:
[Pssst: Click on the triangle to play “Four Brothers” as picked by The Barclay Stars.]
One and Done?
It appears that Guitars Unlimited would be the first and only guitar summit from five of France’s finest — an outcome whose likelihood was signaled in the last sentence of the liner notes by the phrase, “chances are”:
“The sound they generate is so unusual that chances are there will be many more albums by the Barclay Stars.”