Chet Atkins – Class Guitar

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chet Atkins

This RCA original pressing from Nashville, circa 1967, has DEMO DISC quality sound from start to finish, first note to last. Class Guitar is more or less a solo session from 1967, concentrating mostly on classical guitar pieces, with a few pop and jazz hits of the day thrown in for the sake of variety. Chet’s good buddy and main man Jerry Reed joins him on rhythm guitar on some tracks.

Both sides have plenty to offer the discriminating audiophile, with the spaciousness, clarity, tonality and freedom from artificiality that are the hallmark of the best Living Stereo recordings.

Truth be told, technically this is not a real Living Stereo record. It’s an RCA Stereo record. It has the Bill Porter Tubey Magic of the Chet Atkins albums we all know and love, the bulk of which we’re familiar with through our critical listening shootouts. (We’d love to do more but where are the clean stereo copies?)

In fact, not only is this record not a Living Stereo, it’s — gasp — a Dynagroove pressing. And it’s not even Bill Porter at the board, it’s his successor, Jim Malloy.

No matter. Bill may have left in 1964, but he left behind an amazing studio that he practically single-handedly turned into one of the best sounding recording venues in the world. This record may say Dynagroove, but it sure doesn’t sound Dynagroove.

And Bill Porter may have left, but his signature sound is all over this record. As we noted in a previous listing:

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings and remasterings? These vintage Atkins records are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what great recordings Chet Atkins made in Nashville, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album would have no trouble telling after a minute or two that this recording is a very special one indeed.

Having played dozens of Chet Atkins titles over the last few years, we can say with confidence that sometime in the mid-’60s the quality of the sound becomes somewhat more hit and miss with each passing year. But it was always hit and miss before then, just less hit and miss. The man was making three or four albums a year back then. They can’t all be good.

So, in the world of Chet Atkins (and recording artists the world over), it’s win a few, lose a few. This, we are happy to report, is one of the clear winners. I doubt any of his other albums from 1967 sound as good as this one. (One day we will surely find out!)

What to Listen for

Extension up top. Not many copies had all the top end that allows the most subtle guitar harmonics to be reproduced fully.

The other is smear. If the transients are blunted it takes a lot of the fun out of the sound of a plucked instrument like the guitar.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, just shy of the best side two we played, tut killer nonetheless. Open, spacious, clear, transparent, tonally correct — how could the sound possibly be any better?

A little more top end is how, and only one copy had it. Most of the top is here though, not to worry.

Side One

A++. Listen to how clear the foot tapping is! It’s dynamic and energetic, solid and tubey.

Add a touch of top end and it’s Three Pluses!


Side One

Yellow Bird 
Morenioa Do Brazil 
Testament of Amelia 
Acutely Cute 
Little Music Box (La Alborada) Lagrima

Side Two

El Humahuaqueno (Carnavalito) 
Ave Maria (Schubert) 
Scherzino Mexicano 
Manha de Carnaval (Theme From “Black Orpheus) 
Cancion Triste (Sad Song) 
To Be in Love 
I Feel Pretty (From “West Side Story”)