Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Rock Instrumental Classics Volume 1: The Fiftiesdotdotdotdot
artworkThis is Rhino's CD reconstitution of their eighties vinyl series, focusing on the fifties. 18 great instros to wet your whistle!
Picks: Rebel-Rouser, Topsy II, Teen Beat, Bongo Rock, Tequila, Poor Boy, Guitar Boogie Shuffle, The Happy Organ, Raunchy, Walkin' With Mr. Lee, Forty Miles Of Bad Road, Raw-Hide, In The Mood, Woo-Hoo, Red River Rock, Sleep Walk, Rumble, Harlem Nocturne

Track by Track Review


Rebel-Rouser dotdotdot
Twang (Instrumental)

Big guitar twango, much like the original. It's not exactly a repro, but there's only a knife blade between the two from a production perspective. It's so close that one must question the point of re-recording it. The only thing lacking is the exuberance of youth, Steve Douglas' sax wail and the acoustics of the original room.

Topsy II dotdotdotdotdot
Drum (Instrumental)

The title is in reference to Uncle Tom's Cabin. There just aren't many better drum solo tracks than this 1958 single. The basic track is a very powerful big band thing, like "Sing Sing Sing" in terms of it's infectious melody and power. Cozy Cole's drums are incredibly great, incorporating light work, tribal beats, and big band power snare work. This is a singular track of unparalleled energy and soul.

Teen Beat dotdotdotdot
Drum (Instrumental)

Sandy Nelson's first single, from 1959, set the stage for many rock drum records to follow. Only Cozy Cole's "Topsy Part II" had charted before, and it was a big band monster. This is a simple drum pattern, guitar and bass thing that was both innocent and infectious in its day.

Bongo Rock dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is a marvelous and fun classic rock 'n' roll single. The rhythm is totally infectious, and the simple melody line sticks in your memory cells despite any attempt to clear your head. This has almost nothing to do with surf music, though it was a staple among some of the bands. It predates the genre, and has no reverb at all. It is important for a couple of reasons. It was the first rock instro featuring the bongo drum as a central instrument, and it was the structure of this song that was one basis for the Surfaris' "Wipe Out."

Tequila dotdotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

This is their BIG HIT!. It is a sax based number that was probably the frat house standard, long before "Louie Louie" was. The spoken "Tequila" at the end of the lines has become a standard of Latin party rock. Very infectious.

Poor Boy dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Upper Midwest instro rockers the Royaltones recorded many a fine track. 1958's "Poor Boy" is their most familiar track because it was a hit for them. It is pretty tame as their tracks went, with damped echoed guitar, piano, and cryin' sax, all flowing out a weeping melody. Today, they are more revered for the surf rage "Black Lightning" and the incredible "Flamingo Express," the song that the Sentinals' "The Sentinal" is based on.

Guitar Boogie Shuffle dotdotdotdot
Rockabilly Boogie (Instrumental)

This was a monster hit for the Virtues in the fifties, and defined the already overcrowded rockabilly boogie field. The track has been stereo-ized, using a fake spread induced to create a rather effective illusion of a fairly modern and natural stereo. The performance is great. The guitarists are Frank Virtue and Jimmy Bruno.

The Happy Organ dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Churning organ runs, calliope sensibilities, and pure joy. This disc broke the organ out of it's paradigm as a jazz-soul instrument and brought it squarely into rock 'n' roll. This is an utterly infectious wailin' organ instro that just can't be held down. Pumpin' screamin', and drivin' hard on the wind. If there's a single instro that embodies the rock and roll spirit, "The Happy Organ" is it. The production makes the organ sound very loud. Still hot after all these years.

Raunchy dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

"Raunchy" was written by Bill Justis and his guitarist Sidney Manker. It was originally titled "Backwoods." Among the luminaries at the session was Billy 'Flying Saucers Rock And Roll' Riley. It's an often covered swingin' fifties instro.

Walkin' With Mr. Lee dotdotdot
Record Hop Rock (Instrumental)

In 1958, this record hop theme sax tune ruled the roll into the news on the top forty stations across America. Groovy and innocent.

Forty Miles Of Bad Road dotdotdotdot
Twang (Instrumental)

A classic Al Casey / Duane Eddy Southern Rock tale of driving the pickup down a dusty road that bucks like a bronco. The cool guitar and screamin' sax, and the frequent rebel yells made this a monster AM hit.

Raw-Hide dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Who'da thunk it? Paul McCartney's "Cayenne" makes credible fodder for a pretty surf instro, melodic, sad, and haunting. Susan's arrangement is nicely balanced, and the tone is most pleasing.

In The Mood dotdotdot
Jungle Exotica (Instrumental)

Fluted whistling desert riffs, cool middle eastern scenery, but then this dreadful Korla Pandit organ (you know the kind, you've heard it in the mall piano and organ stores, a former shoe salesman in a tie sequencing notes with faux drama and too much Leslie). The line that comes to mind is from Jagger-Richard, "Give me shelter."

Woo-Hoo dotdotdotdot
Rockabilly (Instrumental)

Not entirely an instro, the Rock-A-Teens' hoppin' infectious "Woo-Hoo" simply carries you away. The falsetto chorus singin' relentless "woo-hoo"'s on the melody line over a guitar boogie grabs your fun center, shakes it around, and makes you grin. Too fun!

Red River Rock dotdotdot
Sax & Organ Rock (Instrumental)

The first of what would become their formula, public domain standards ominously rocked out with organ dominated evil sax instrumentals with great Dave Yorko guitar breaks. "Red River Rock" never sounded so cool! It was instro covers of public domain standards that originally influenced Paul Johnson, who used "Little Brown Jug" among others in the Belairs sets (and on disc).

Sleep Walk dotdotdotdot
Lap Steel Pre Surf (Instrumental)

It doesn't get much more definitive than this. Sinewy slow dance classic, beautiful melody, covered endlessly and never as well. Simply a stunning song. Originally released in 1959, this is one of the great instro singles of the distant past, which featured, for the first time, the lap steel in a lead role (outside of country and Hawaiian). This slithery slowdance romancer was/is the prelude to a whole lotta whoopee. It is so very beautiful. Totally sweet guitar sounds.

Rumble dotdotdotdotdot
Classic Dark Rock (Instrumental)

The original street gang record. This drips juvenile delinquency and chains and knives and broken bottles. It's the first evil rock instro. Very powerful after 40 years! Link Wray is the originator of lead guitar instros, of the ominous guitar sound, of the use of extreme sustain for danger, of the tribal thunder and drama under rock instros, of the gradually changing effects to impose a rising threat, as he does by increasing vibrato at the end of the track. This is a must have for any self-respecting rock instro fan, and a definite requirement to understand the foundation that was laid for the later surf bands.

Harlem Nocturne dotdotdotdotdot
Dramatic Pre Surf (Instrumental)

The Viscounts' spectacular 1959 hit was a cover of "Harlem Nocturne" was reissued again in 1960 and 1966 after selling out of the first pressing. It features the very intense and sultry sax of Harry Haller, which drives this track with the danger of a back alley. The throbbing vibrato guitar adds to the ominous sound. This is one magnificent track.