Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Al Caiola - Bonanza!dotdotdot
artworkAl Caiola was one of the more interesting studio guitarists. He is best known for his hit version of the theme from The Magnificent Seven, later used as the theme for a long-running series of TV ads for Marlboro. This CD sports 33 tracks, a few of which are pretty cool, and relate to surf in some ways, though more as a sidebar and occasionally as an influence.
Picks: The Magnificent Seven, Bonanza, The Lonely Rebel, The Bounty Hunter, Sergeants Three March, Experiment In Terror, Guitar Boogie, Kalinka, Gunsmoke, Burke's Law Theme, Smoke Signal (Redwing), From Russia With Love, The Guns Of Navarone, Tuff Guitar, Ram-Bunk-Shush, Honky Tonk (Part 2), Hunky Funky, Hearts Of Stone, I Walk The Line, Big Guitar, Two Guitars, Foot Stompin', Wheels, Jezebel, Mexico, Brasil, The World Is Waiting For The Sunshine, Return Of The Magnificent Seven, Stag Or Drag, Scalphunters Theme, High Chaparral, Stiletto, Guitar Woman

Track by Track Review

The Magnificent Seven dotdotdotdot
TV Western (Instrumental)

"The Magnificent Seven" was an immediate success when it struck the airwaves in 1965, and returned the compliment with influences from the surfbands. Elmer Bernstein's great melody became the signature tune for a series of Marlboro TV ads.

Bonanza dotdotdotdot
Spaghetti Western Precursor (Instrumental)

This 1961 single is a classic spaghetti western precursor, with western adventure written all over it, while not being country. It was one of a handful of AM radio hits that helped launch the surfbands. Jay Livingston and Ray Evans theme to the television series "Bonanza" was a breath of fresh air, and while very commercial (strings and horns), it bridged rock instrumental and adventure westerns, and influenced by the surfbands to come.

The Lonely Rebel dotdotdot
Western (Instrumental)

Domenick Costa's syrupy melody was the B-side of "The Magnificent Seven." Vibrato guitar and orchestral pomp, over a sock hop rhythm, makes it pretty and quite dated.

The Bounty Hunter dotdotdot
Western (Instrumental)

"The Bounty Hunter" is a kind of Duane Eddy wannabe track, with nearly-big vibrato guitar and an orchestra. It's a nifty track in some ways, but also quite old-fart-ish. This was the B-side to 1961's "Bonanza" single.

Sergeants Three March dotdotdot
Film Score (Instrumental)

Films score music with vibrato guitar and fly weight orchestration. The strummed banjo is different, and the melody whistling catchy. This was the B-side to 1962's "Experiment In Terror."

Experiment In Terror dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

He of the Magnificent Seven delivers a vibrato variation with Steve Douglas inspired sax from 1962. Pretty cool.

Guitar Boogie dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Just like the title says, this is a typical "Guitar Boogie" extremely similar to the Virtues' "Guitar Boogie Shuffle," with a laughing sax and great drums.

Kalinka dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

"Kalinka" was the B-side to "Guitar Boogie," this is a Three Suns / "Zorba The Greek" kinda thing with a European vacation movie feel.

Gunsmoke dotdotdot
TV Western (Instrumental)

"Gunsmoke" is a far cry from the great western theme that "Bonanza" was. Strings and a moderately interesting melody line.

Burke's Law Theme dotdot
TV Theme (Instrumental)

This is a rich vibrato guitar lead version of the TV series theme, with way too much orchestration. The series was cheesy to say the least, and the "Burke's Law Theme" certainly says cheese!

Smoke Signal (Redwing) dotdotdot
TV Western (Instrumental)

The B-side of "Burke's Law Theme," is modeled after "Bonanza," with infectious guitar, but entirely too much orchestral pomp and flair. Like the addition of strings to Dick Dale's "Miserlou Twist," they just take away from the coolness of the track.

From Russia With Love dotdotdot
Film Score (Instrumental)

With a kind of Henry Mancini cool and walking bass line, Al Caiola's vibrato guitar softly sways through "From Russia With Love." The orchestra is lush, but I sure would prefer big Al's guitar without all the swinger strings.

The Guns Of Navarone dotdotdot
Film Score (Instrumental)

Military drums and orchestra fills don't detract too much from Al Caiola's vibrato shimmer. Despite the lush orchestration, "The Guns Of Navarone" is an attractive recording.

Tuff Guitar dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

George Roumanis' tune gets a slightly orchestra treatment, yet leaves the guitar more or less in charge. Melodic and friendly, with a whistling organ in the distance.

Ram-Bunk-Shush dotdot
Blues (Instrumental)

The classic blues guitar romp "Ram-Bunk-Shush" gets an orchestral face lift. It's fun, but unremarkable.

Honky Tonk (Part 2) dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

Bill Doggett's saucy "Honky Tonk (Part 2)" is actually quite credible, with the orchestra held at bay. It's not far from the hit.

Hunky Funky dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

This is a gutty R&B groove with great harmonica and significantly more edge than most studio project tracks. Nicely done, with a soulful blues groove and almost British Blues feel.

Hearts Of Stone dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

A stroll with a bluesy flow and groove, "Hearts Of Stone" is simple and fun, but not particularly memorable.

I Walk The Line dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This is a slightly nasty rock instrumental treatment of Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line." The vibrato lead guitar is fine, and the arrangement almost actual rock and roll. A Boots Randolph style sax offsets the second guitar with near-edge, and the beat if warm and friendly.

Big Guitar dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This guitar song sports a bit of edge on the guitar, squished out by the orchestral accompaniment. It has a kind of "Magnificent Seven" reference here and there, as well as a "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" hint or two.

Two Guitars dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

The orchestra is the main event in "Two Guitars." Too bad, 'cuz there's significant opportunity for the guitar to shine in a more rock format.

Foot Stompin' dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Al Collins' "Foot Stompin'" is a fifties throwback in many ways, with the carnival organ carrying much of the lead. never mind!

Wheels dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

The String-A-Longs' classy and infectious "Wheels" is softened some, yet is a very enjoyable track, with some very nice guitar from Al Caiola. It's a well balanced recording.

Jezebel dotdotdot
Western (Instrumental)

Wayne Shanklin's often covered "Jezebel" features strong guitar and great drums, with minimal interference from the strings. Despite the orchestration, this does its best to rock! Very cool!

Mexico dotdotdot
Faux Mariachi (Instrumental)

Al Caiola completely transforms Bob Moore's hit "Mexico" into a delicate vibratos shimmer that has a hint of the Baja Marimba Band in it. Very suave! It's nothing like Dick Dale's version.

Brasil dotdotdot
Dixieland Surf (Instrumental)

With real surf reverb and vibrato, and a Dixieland Jazz backtrack, Al Caiola has some kinda hybrid fun with Barroso's classic "Brasil." While it's not as cool as the Velaires' take, it has a real charm, if for no other reason than the Fender reverb and vibrato.

The World Is Waiting For The Sunshine dot
MOR (Instrumental)

A million covers of this MOR classic, and Al Caiola has to add yet another so-so rendition.

Return Of The Magnificent Seven dotdotdot
Spaghetti (Instrumental)

This is little more than a remake of Elmer Bernstein's "The Magnificent Seven." It's just not as interesting.

Stag Or Drag dotdotdotdot
Faux Sitar Psychedelic (Instrumental)

A bit of fuzz, faux Sitar lead guitar, and even hints of electronic keys. The title says fifties dance, but the sound is almost studio psychedelia. Most unusual!

Scalphunters Theme dotdotdot
Spaghetti (Instrumental)

major nods to the "Magnificent Seven," Elmer Bernstein's follow-on is infectious in a film score kinda way.

High Chaparral dotdotdot
Spaghetti (Instrumental)

Big film score pomp and romp, "High Chaparral" is inspired by a combination of Enio Morricone and Elmer Bernstein, but comes from the pen of Hary Sukman. It's nice enough.

Stiletto dotdot
Film Score (Instrumental)

No, this is not an interpretation of "Wipe Out." Orchestral and not very interesting.

Guitar Woman dotdot
Film Score (Instrumental)

Big drama, orchestral pomp, guitar noodliness... if not on the screen, it just isn't all that interesting, though there are some splendid percussion sequences.