Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA Collection: Vintage Instrumentals Volume One
|Much of what's on both discs of this two volume series is Billboard mung, often studio creations or oldster fluff ready for the trash heap of music history. There are a few gems, so if you're adventurous and willing to wade through a some tall grass to catch a few fine specimens, read on.|
Picks: Soft Summer Breeze, Swanee River Hop, Sail Along Silvery Moon, Near You, Poor Boy, Pettit Fleur, Quiet Village, Torquay, Calcutta, (Ghost) Riders In The Sky, Asia Minor, Afrikan Beat, Balboa Blue, Limbo Rock, Telstar, Yakety Sax, Forever, Hawaii Tattoo, Keem-O-Sabe, Popcorn
Track by Track Review
Soft Summer Breeze
Piano player Eddie Haywood plays solo for lounge and lobby. "Soft Summer Breeze" features a pretty melody, and a glimpse of 1956 Billboard easy listening.
Rock 'n' Roll (Instrumental)
This 1956 piano number from New Orleans legend Fats Domino shows off a style that is immediately identifiable as Creole, a method and flair that grew out of the rags of the twenties and became the signature of Jerry Lee Lewis when pounding pumping attack was added. It is most characterized by the style of Professor Longhair. An infectious early rockin' romp on the eighty-eights.
Sail Along Silvery Moon
Orchestra leader Billy Vaughn recorded for many years with his saucy and slick horns, tamed from their jazz roots, and targeted at the aging war years parents of the first rock 'n' roll generation. Teisco Del Rey told me once Billy Vaughn recorded a cool version of "Mr. Moto." This 1957 release, on the other hand, is for the swingin' elevator set.
Piano player Roger Williams, known mostly for his lush string arrangements behind his plinky piano, had a hit with this slushy shmoozer in 1958. It's hard to imagine now how far apart the generations were then until you here mung like this.
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.
Chris Barber's recordings were often more exciting than this track. His trad jazz sound was much more familiar in the UK, where he was from. Chris Barber was the midwife to the British R&B scene. He used his established popularity as a platform to present American blues artists to British audiences, and it was through him that guys like Alexis Corner and Graham Bond got into the music, eventually founding Blues Incorporated, which was the launch pad for the explosion, spinning off the Rolling Stones and John Mayall, among others. "Pettit Fleur" means "Little Flower."
This IS exotica! Les Baxter wrote this, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman made it a household experience in 1959. Denny's band held tourists captive in the big hotel lounges in Honolulu for nearly a decade with the fake bird calls, exotic percussion, and accessible safe piano and vibes leads. He brought the thrill of the jungle to people afraid of mice in a sanitized and fluid vehicle of eerily magical magnetism.
Pre Surf (Instrumental)
"Torquay" is still a great tune, even 37 years after it was committed to tape. It was borrowed by the Challengers for their debut album Surf Beat, and by the Lively Ones for the Surfin' South Of The Border album. It's primal near-surf sound and rim shot percussion is quintessential Fireballs. The song's power is testified to also in the name being used for numerous bands, including San Jose's circa 1963 surf band the Torquays.
Rest Home MOR (Instrumental)
The safest of all band leaders was Wisconsin's home boy Lawrence Welk, who perfected a recipe for wholesome music embraced by the aged. His television show was enormously popular among the oldsters. His bubble machine was always going. He employed the Lennon Sisters to sing choruses, and employed a number of excellent musicians, including some fine guitarists like Buddy Merrill. He even committed tasty versions of "Pipeline" and "Scarlett O'Hara" to tape before fading into obscurity. This 1960 hit is a bit of fluff fit for the halls of any rest home.
(Ghost) Riders In The Sky
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.
Rockin' Piano Boogie MOR (Instrumental)
Influenced by B. Bumble and the Stingers, Kokomo rocked on this prancie piano boogie with bass and drums, and string accompaniment. It's a playful bit of MOR that is hard to hate. Makes you wanna get up and move! Way fun.
Cutesy Slush Hook MOR (Instrumental)
Not only was German Bert Kempfert's music fluffy and about as far from anything "African" as you can get, it was generally riffs for orchestra, cute little progressions with no real direction. It was a monster hot for him in the US in 1961. Incidentally, it was Bert Kempfert who produced the Beatles' first recording "My Bonnie" in Hamburg.
That most humorous concept band, the Mill Valley Taters (drum machine and all), slip into a white water swirl with this surfy instro, structured somewhat like a Torpedoes tune, though less power driven. Nice work, and good listening.
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)
Billy Strange's "Second Line Limbo" is one infectious tune. It is incarnated via the Latin frill of the Champs for this entirely infectious 1962 hit. Except for the "la la la" chorus, this is delightful.
Space Rock (Instrumental)
This is it, the Tornados signature hit. Brilliantly filled with damped plucking, rhythmic churn, and whirring space. Joe Meek wrote this tune. It is utterly unique in the annals of rock. Meek was the UK master of thick completely filled sound, compressed until totally flat, and very cool. This 1962 release has been done by a bazillion surf bands. A must have for any serious instro fan. It is the Tornados signature tune.
1963 saw the release of this nearly children's tune. It's a honkin' playful sax romp. Way fun, but also quite dismissible.
MOR Mush (Instrumental)
Plinky piano, plucky rhythm guitar, sultry strings, sophisticated female chorus, mushy production, and Pete Drakes "Magic Bag" lap steel guitar, fed through a tube into his mouth so he could shape the sounds into words. Too sugary for any diet, even from 1964.
Hawaiian MOR (Instrumental)
1964's lap steel Polynesian export with Lawrence Welk sensibilities and that great Hawaiian archetype sound.
Indian Stereotype (Instrumental)
In the midst of the heavy psychedelic era, the charts were still full of antiquarian fluff. This bouncy and infectious thing is a concocted stereotype with a great melody and a too-cute sound. It may have been 1969, but that didn't mean Jimi Hendrix's influence touched everyone.
Bursting With Flavor (Instrumental)
At the dawn of the disco era in 1972, George Kingsley's tune is played by Moog session man Stan Free. "Popcorn" raged through the clubs and charts. It's percussive "popcorn popping" style and effective production is reminiscent of Billy Joe & the Ckeckmates' "Percolator" from the Maxwell House coffee TV ads. The album this comes from features a version of "Pipeline."