Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
John Barry - The EMI Years Volume 1dotdotdot
artwork

We all know John Barry from his spy-movie tracks, but before that, he also did some Duane Eddy and Ventures style records. This CD compiles material dating from '57 to '60.

As pre-surf instros lending their foundation to surf, this can be an interesting CD. Some tracks are from vinyl, most are session tapes, and a few are stereo for the first time. There are also seven vocals here, demonstrating how weak British rockabilly was, or at least why John Barry gave up singing. More historically interesting than musically appealing because much of the material is so dated.

Picks: Big Guitar, Rodeo, Pancho, Hideaway, Farrago, Bees Knees, When The Saints Go Marching In, Pancho, Long John, Snap ‘N’ Whistle, Little John, For Pete’s Sake, Bees Knees, Little John, Rebel Rouser, Mab Mab, Twelfth Street Rag, Christella, Beat Girl (Main Title), Hit and Miss, Rockin' Already, Beat For Beatniks, Big Fella, Blueberry Hill, Never Let Go, Walk Don't Run, I'm Movin' On, Saturday's Child, Black Stockings, Get Lost Jack Frost

Track by Track Review


Big Guitar dotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

A basic fifties boogie shuffle with all too few occasional vibrato guitar notes, and a rambling sax. While it hints at a "rumble in the alley," it never really goes anywhere. 1958

Rodeo dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

A very simple progression repeated repeatedly with repetition, interrupted occasionally by occasional sax... repetitious and only slightly interesting. 1958

Pancho dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Heavy almost surf guitar with a Champs-like sax line and and the same riff over and over. It does work, but isn't very magnetic. The flute adds a bit of variety, and the variations in arrangement help too. 1958

Hideaway dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Highly repetitious lounge instro. This is not the grand Freddie King tune. Loungie slightly bluesy, with bongos and a bit of an edge. 1958

Farrago dotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

MOR mambo lounge mung. 1958

Bees Knees dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

This track features a Champs-like sound, a repetitious pattern, and a stop-start methodology. The guitar is low and guttural, and it just barely carries the track into the "listenable" category. For the uninitiated, "Bees Knees" is a term from the twenties that hung on through the fifties, roughly equivalent to "rad" or "cool" or "buff" or "spiff." "Bee's knees" are just too cute! 1958

When The Saints Go Marching In dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

For 1958 UK, this is quite spirited. It's very fifties raw rock arranged, but doesn't carry the guts of Bo Diddley's version. It does have a lot of spunk and is quite fun, and is modeled on the Duane Eddy version. It also purports to be live, but I suspect that the crowd is overdubbed given the caliber of the recording and the methods usually employed in the UK back then. 1958

Pancho dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Heavy almost surf guitar with a Champs-like sax line and and the same riff over and over. It does work, but isn't very magnetic. The flute adds a bit of variety, and the variations in arrangement help too. 1958

Long John dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

An upbeat bluesy thing, horn led, with an infectious melody line and sound. It's way fun, with Barry's guitar playing accents against the horn rants. Too cool, like the Rumblers could have cut it.

Snap ‘N’ Whistle dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Whistlin' lead melody, floating wistfully across the room, like a Mitch Miller epic. Pretty and fun, but unremarkable.

Little John dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Twang and brass band, British cowboy music. Think skiffle and cactus, with jumping beans and peppers.

For Pete’s Sake dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

This piano roll number reminds me of a fluff version of the Dharma Blues Band trying to be Jelly Roll Morton.

Bees Knees dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

This track features a Champs-like sound, a repetitious pattern, and a stop-start methodology. The guitar is low and guttural, and it just barely carries the track into the "listenable" category. For the uninitiated, "Bees Knees" is a term from the twenties that hung on through the fifties, roughly equivalent to "rad" or "cool" or "buff" or "spiff." "Bee's knees" are just too cute! 1958

Little John dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Twang and brass band, British cowboy music. Think skiffle and cactus, with jumping beans and peppers.

Rebel Rouser dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Doing Duane Eddy one better... The John Barry Seven deliver a darn nearly exact copy. Lots of spunk and coolness.

Mab Mab dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

The girls are screaming, the guitar vibrato-ing away, the horns wailin' a rock and roll sound. It's a decent rock instro, with ample energy and edge.

Twelfth Street Rag dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

This familiar tune is done with spirit in that late fifties JB7 style. It's quite fiery.

Christella
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Movie music slush... piano smoothies on a big screen.

Beat Girl (Main Title) dotdotdot
Brit Movie Rock (Instrumental)

Listening to this ultra twangster, it's easy to see why Laika and the Cosmonauts covered it. Despite the horn leads, it's full of fire and flair, and the low-E guitar is very cool, as is the infectious riff.

Hit and Miss dot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Plucky violins violate the sanctity of the twangy guitar, like Duane Eddy with the Boston Pops.

Rockin' Already
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Plodding MOR pop. The girl chorus goes into a nearly "Lion Sleeps Tonight" bag. Egads.

Beat For Beatniks
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Much too suave for the beatnik crowd, this is more jazzy and slithery than beat generation.

Big Fella dotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Like I wanna know what this is about... Slow sultry Broadway stuff with big guitar edge and fifties stage pomp.

Blueberry Hill dotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

This is a kinda twerpy elevator sound, like Duane Eddy stuck between the 7th and 8th floors a la Being John Malkovich.

Never Let Go dotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

A slow walkin' countrified twango exercise. The guitar is alright, but the rest is like Nashville vs. real country, unreal and unemotional.

Walk Don't Run dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

This is a presentable rendition of the Ventures classic. The arrangement is darn close, with the addition of great plinky piano and British whammy. Quite an interesting track, with more emphasis on the rhythm guitar than the lead in the mix.

I'm Movin' On dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Hank Snow's country masterpiece that the Rolling Stones made rock is here made to lay quietly in the rec hall. The guitar is twangy enough, but those plucky strings are just too much to bear. The arrangement reminds me of Lawrence Welk.

Saturday's Child dotdotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

This is an excellent guitar instro, with a solid melody and basic arrangement that yields a friendly track with rock sensibilities. There are bits of "Walk Don't Run" and of pre-surf as well.

Black Stockings dotdotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

Vibrato swill, with an almost "Never On Sunday" kinda melody and that sorta cheesy appeal. It almost succeeds until the chorus comes in and shatters the illusion.

Get Lost Jack Frost dotdot
Brit Rock (Instrumental)

With serious borrowing from "When The Saints Go Marching In" and plucky elevator strings, this can't quite decide if it's rock or 101 Strings.