Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Ventures - Stars on Guitarsdotdotdot
artworkThis 2 CD set, one studio and one of live Japanese recordings from the late eighties and early nineties. The studio set is often just dribble, but the live set is well worth the price of admission.
Picks: Misirlou, Penetration, Oh, Pretty Woman, Comin' Home Baby, Cruisin' Machine, Stand By Me, Have You Ever Seen The Rain, Hey Paula, Runaway, Lipstick On Your Collar, It's My Party, Unchained Melody, Maria Elena, Johnny Angel, Save The Last Dance For Me, Rhythm Of The Rain, Gold Finger, Chariots Of Fire, St. Elmo's Fire, Axel F / Miami Vice Theme, Lullaby Of The Leaves, Apache, Furi Furi '65, Diamond Head, Wipe Out, House Of The Rising Sun, Slaughter On 10th Avenue, Pipeline, The Cruel Sea, Hollywood Punk, Telstar, Secret Agent Man, Kyoto Doll, Paint It Black, Walk, Don't Run '64, Comin' Home Baby, Hawaii Five-0, Caravan

Track by Track Review

Misirlou dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This fine tune was covered by the Surfaris. It is mean and vibrato laden, and uses echoplex string swipes to simulate the same sorts of sounds they used when they covered "Moon Dawg." It's a very rhythmic track, full of body and power. This band's output on Vee Jay should be released!

Penetration dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This misses the point of the original. The added slide accents detract from the melody, giving it a silly air. The arrangement is otherwise pretty close to the Pyramids, except for the addition of the girl chorus.

Oh, Pretty Woman dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a spiffy garagie and mean surf single, with excellent lead work and a flying melody line. Lots of reasons to like this. Thrashing rolling drums, a solid bass line, and that great surf lead. Infectious!

Comin' Home Baby dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Fun and spiffy, this is a light hearted romp through Herbie Mann's classic. It's not up to the Surfaris' take, but it's quite serviceable.

Cruisin' Machine dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This is a really nice tune with an open road feel and appropriately round guitar tone. The break is a little MOR, but overall, this is a pleasant track.

Stand By Me dotdotdotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

This is one bizarre little ditty. The percussion is most unique, with timbales and a saucy bass line. The tune rolls along with a pulsating feel. It ain't no surf tune, but it's so cool! What happens when you merge Euro stylings with Latin American percussion sounds and twangy guitar? You get disconnected.

Have You Ever Seen The Rain dotdotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

This charming Euro tune has a warm and round tone to it. The melody line is more about using the fret board than a melody, like a gypsy progression. Quite stunning, and fun.

Hey Paula dotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

Sultry treatment of Paul & Paula's hit. A big so what.

Runaway dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A pedestrian arrangement of Del Shannon's hit, more rock oriented than the medley, but still nothing to hoot about.

Lipstick On Your Collar dotdotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

Crunch comes to Laika and the Cosmonauts in this track. It's a progression and lead exercise combination that is precise and nerve wracking, but not very interesting after about half the song passes. Too little melody and too much repetition.

It's My Party dotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

Like William F. Williams on KLIV used to shout when introducing the hit version of this, "Here's GORE!" He was being facetious, as am I. This is fluff. Leslie Gore (no relation to cardboard take away all your cars Al Gore) was the original pouty snotty teen age girl singer... it sucked then, it sucks now. This has none of the fire of the Gore hit.

Unchained Melody dotdotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

Seventies funk and bongos, smooth soft wah wah, tinkly echoed piano, and atmospheric sounds support a pretty but unremarkable melody. As a backdrop for a cocktail party, it would be fine. For intent listening, I found it to be dismissible.

Maria Elena dotdotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

Intense eighties LA guitar band sounds under the organ lead are a nice contrast, but I just don;t dig the keys.

Johnny Angel dotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

An MOR treatment of Shelly Fabres' teeny bopper hit from her days on the Donna Reed show. Fine for the bar at the Holiday Inn. The bass line borrowed from "Oh Pretty Woman is a nifty drop in.

Save The Last Dance For Me dotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

Written by the exceptional Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman and made into a household hit by the Drifters, this tune is laid out in a featherweight arrangement with little character. The almost carnival ska backtrack makes a mockery of the song.

Rhythm Of The Rain dotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

Another fluff treatment of a top forty hit of a bygone era. Disco MOR fare.

Gold Finger dotdotdot
Elevator Spy (Instrumental)

The guitars are effected to sound almost keyboard like. The backtrack is a lightweight ska thing, and the bass is definitely eighties pop. A thin lead guitar makes it suitable for the K-mart radio network.

Chariots Of Fire dotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

An organ of soap opera proportions, a slow pace, a pulsing feeling, and, well, a strange side show ambiance. I don't know about this at all.

St. Elmo's Fire dotdotdotdot
Fuzz Surf (Instrumental)

Fast chunky surf guitar backtrack under Davie's great fuzz tones and slithery fret board work. Quite spirited and well arranged.

Axel F / Miami Vice Theme dotdot
Fuzz (Instrumental)

The Phantom Surfers play "Louie Louie" while Davie Allan plays something else. Amid shouts and screams, the track lumbers along with a largely undistinguished aural composition. The backtrack seems at odds with the lead lines.

Lullaby Of The Leaves dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Among the most often requested of their vintage tunes, this is well surfed from a whammy point of view, but really is in the "Walk, Don't Run" mold stylistically. Excellent treatment.

Apache dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This melodic treatment of the classic is a natural. It's well played, and solidly arranged. I particularly like the flippant energy and playful blending of guitar tones. The sound is better than most here, but still somewhat shallow.

Furi Furi '65 dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

What have we here? "Furi Furi '65" is a nice tune, originally from their early success in Japan. A fine riff and lot's of shouts of "hey!" More country than rock, but kinda cool.

Diamond Head dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Danny Hamilton's classic instro, and among the very few surf singles the Ventures issued. Classic.

Wipe Out dotdot
Biker (Instrumental)

Highly uninspired dry rendering of the Surfaris classic. Mel Taylor's drums are way weak when compared to Ron Wilson's.

House Of The Rising Sun dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A tame instro treatment of the Animals' hit. Not very strong.

Slaughter On 10th Avenue dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Thick and raspy, this track is pretty muscle bound. It captures that Davie Allan mean-humorous feel. Melodic and fluidly driven to the back alley.

Pipeline dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Ventures recorded "Pipeline" with no reverb, and very uneven glissando meter, plus little of the emotional beauty of the Chantays' original classic. It's a flat-pickers rendition, not particularly interesting.

The Cruel Sea dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Also titled "The Cruel Surf," this is an odd version, with the lead guitar mixed pretty low. It's faster and more pumped than the Dakotas' original. The guitar tone is quite dry.

Hollywood Punk dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Davie's bastard file fuzz and an appropriately edgy backtrack work well together on this dissonant and grinding number.

Telstar dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This just lacks the grodie drive of Joe Meek's' knob twisting compressed production of the original Tornados hit. It also lacks the charm of the surf versions, and the later eighties punk-power pop covers. The organ lead is shallow, and the guitar is weak.

Secret Agent Man dotdotdot
TV Surf (Instrumental)

Another TV theme "Venturized" in the formula that became the "sound" of the Ventures... girl chorus, all too familiar covers, and adoring fans. Johnny Rivers version is way better.

Kyoto Doll dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Great Davie Allan string bending, in his unique fluid style. This is a variation on the "Invasion Of The Body Surfers" theme. Big time fun and energy.

Paint It Black dotdotdotdot
Power Surf (Instrumental)

This is a very dark, ultra thick guitar instro that employs a number surfisms among the harsh world of mean chords. It's more repetitious than I'd like, but it has immense power and angst, and there is no defense against the brutality with which it assaults the listener. Strong power surf grind.

Walk, Don't Run '64 dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Ventures had already become the chameleons of rock by the time surf came along a mere few months after they cut "Walk, Don't Run" in 1960. They adapted quickly, morphing their crown jewel tune into a surf classic by adding reverb and glissandoes. It's way fun.

Comin' Home Baby dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Fun and spiffy, this is a light hearted romp through Herbie Mann's classic. It's not up to the Surfaris' take, but it's quite serviceable.

Hawaii Five-0 dotdotdotdot
Horror Film For Your Ears (Instrumental)

"Binge and Purge" lumbers down a path not often traveled, where loungecore and private eye jazz blend into a new recipe for sludgomatic horror throb. Just short of monstercore, this slithers and sneaks in the back allies of your town, looking for a garage to sleep in. It can't decide if it's suave and cool, or dark and sinister. The conflict between the trench coated gumshoe and the sci-fi radiation byproduct ooze from the planet sludge is all too enticing. You can draw a slight parallel to the soundscape of the Reventlos' "King Kong." No surf in sight, but this is a brilliant track, like a movie with no scenes.

Caravan dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Not quite as tribal as it would become later for the Ventures, yet very cool. The guitar tone is too subdued for rock, but this small combo arrangement is really nice. Solid drums and infectious rhythm enhance this Duke Ellington classic. A strip joint runway beat, and a shuffling rhythm guitar, and splendid jazzy lead work. This is precision pristine instro rock. Excellent.