Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Ghost Riders In The Skydotdotdot
artworkA concept CD-R release of versions of Stan Jones classic "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky," some of which are cool, some of which are not. This set includes five vocals, including what is often credited as the first version from Vaughn Monroe, though it's rumored that Burl Ives actually cut it first. The other vocals are from Jimmy Rodgers, Tom Jones, Frankie Lane, and the Outlaws.
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Track by Track Review


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Surf (Vocal)


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Cowboy Twang (Instrumental)

Al Casey and Duane Eddy's twang opened new trails in rock 'n' roll. The Ramrods took the Stan Jones cowboy classic and breathed new life into it with the big guitar sound, and amped it to the max with the overdubbed hoots and cattle calls. This is the version all the surf bands heard and were inspired by.

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Orchestral (Instrumental)

Horses cross the speakers as the insipid Hollywood Pops Orchestra horns their way through a drek-ridden orchestral romp. Strings, soft horns... it's oddly attractive, but I really don't want to like it.

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Cowbly Near Surf (Instrumental)

Unique rolling rhythm patterns, surfish whammy, near Jet Harris bass-guitar tone, and an infectious gate... this is both a totally unique arrangement, and a fine track! The reverbed midsection sure does sound like surf, yet it's 1960 and the surf has not evolved yet. Brilliant!

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Surf (Vocal)


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Country Rock (Instrumental)

From their second or third album, the Ventures play "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" with less flair than they applied to "Walk Don't Run," yet it's attractive and interesting, except for the strings and chorus, which give it a weird, almost old-fart feel.

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Surf (Instrumental)

The first truly surf version of Stan Jones' cowboy classic that had already been rocked out by the Ramrods. This version is still my favorite of all, save the insane EchoPlexed psychedelic rendition from Mexico's Los Babys. The glissandoes and piano are essential to making it work, and the resulting recording is totally infectious, and enhances any drive down an open road.

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Rock (Instrumental)

Thick sound and a forced-quirk arrangement separate this version of "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" from the pack. Plucking, a fast-ish rhythm, and a completely original arrangement. Sorta cool, sorta weird, sorta interesting. The long slow climbing slide chords are strange.

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Rock (Instrumental)

Dry guitar plays the introductory riffs, then the band comes in. The guitar is processed through studio tape delay fed out to the right channel, giving it some spatial depth. Obviously recorded at low volumes, yet well within the bounds of interesting. It's essentially the Ramrods' arrangement softened significantly and sand chorus falsetto.

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MOR Rock (Instrumental)

Cheesy horns hint of Goldfinger while Al Caiola's guitar thinly plays "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" with a much weaker sound than you might expect from him. Very much a studio creation.

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Rock (Vocal)


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Orchestral (Instrumental)

The Roland Shaw Orchestra play "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" as if they are auditioning for a screen version of Oklahoma. Way too squishy for my taste!

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MOR Rock (Instrumental)

Czech guitarist Karel Duba plays "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" in a stilted and shallow way. A very lightweight backtrack, a softly distorted lead guitar, and a general lack of chemistry. Judging from this track alone, I'd guess Karel Duba was a local attempt at Al Caiola or maybe Duane Eddy. Entirely dismissible.

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Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

Low-E guitar, a cowboy backtrack, cow slingers shouting at them doggies, and a bunch of country feel. A nice version, relatively standard arrangement, which is pretty unusual for Davie. Mono elevates the status, and makes it more interesting.

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Surf (Instrumental)

This is among the chunkier, more interesting surf versions of this song. It is not the rhythmic pristine Chantays approach, nor is it the Ramrods' cowboy arrangement. Johnny Barakat rearranged some of the riffs, added some unexpected repeats, and generally created an intense experience. The slight meter shift in the first few notes is kinda funny. It lets you know Johnny Barakat and the Vestells weren't pro's, just a neighborhood band having too much surf fun. An absolutely honest and wonderful track.

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Cowboy Rock (Instrumental)

Great rolling bass and drums run under an echoed twangster version of "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky." While it's pretty cool, it's only the backtrack that sets it apart from a large number of non-surf versions.

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Surf (Vocal)


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Surf (Instrumental)

Session lizard Arlen Roth, who has also backed Danny Gatton, plays a disjointed and spirit-free noodler, cooled only by the lap steel and odd tinkly piano. Sorta half way between country, mindless jazz, and the Flying Lizards.

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Bedroom Rock (Instrumental)

Casio drums, guitar chumpery arranged the way only a bedroom player could. Quirky, strangely augmented, and just waiting for American Idol - NOT.

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Surf (Instrumental)

Low gutty Jet Harris guitar-bass lead drives this thirty-nine second medley extract. The whole track must be odd at best. Quite without energy or chemistry.

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Big Rock (Instrumental)

Very thick, metal inspired, soaring, effected swirling, rhythmic and heavy. This is very attractive in it's wall of textures sound and power. Angelo Santoro has issued a number of very cool off the beaten path recordings of classic instros. I first discovered Angelo Santoro a decade ago at Dedicated Record Collector, the now defunct coolest store in San Jose.

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MOR Cowboy Rock (Instrumental)

Opening with the "Layla" chords over rolling toms, it does have a different arrangement. It does not have any of the cowboy angst or energy of nearly any other of the many other versions of this song.

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Rock (Instrumental)

Dick's second recording of the Stan Jones classic. As in his live shows, Dick stretched the guitar solo intro for too long. The track sound is thick and indistinct. Not very interesting. I like his original Capitol session better, but it's still good.

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Twang (Instrumental)

Slushy keys, artificial storms of pomp, Duane Eddy's big guitar, and disco beats from the bank role of Mike Curb. It's so bizarre to hear this raucous western classic smooshed into a faux power strange with the Village People just off stage. Very strange, yet somehow quite interesting.

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Twang (Vocal)


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Twang (Instrumental)

Circular lushness, dreamy soundscapes, light weight production, and a disco bass line. Jerry Donahue has removed all of the cowboy life from "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky," replacing it with slushy sounds.