Saturday, December 10, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: OLD SCHOOL OLDIES VOL. 6 - INSTRUMENTALS
Man, I love this ongoing series, one that presents old classics, but often with very surprising and rarely-heard choices. There are so many oldies collections that stick with the same top hits, it's great when somebody curates them with the idea of giving you something you might not know, or at least something you haven't heard in ages. This is volume six in the set, and this time the focus is on instrumentals.
There haven't been many instrumental hits over the years, barely any since the 60's, and that means the big ones are very familiar (Green Onions, Telstar, etc.). There are just two somewhat familiar ones on this set, The Marketts' Out Of Limits, a #3 hit in 1964, and Jack Nitzsche's awesome The Lonely Surfer, #39 from 1963. The rest fall into a couple of categories; there are several jazz numbers by top-flight film composers and such, plus numbers by several of the famous Wrecking Crew, the L.A. session players best known for working with Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and on hundreds of other hits.
Since they were the best players in town in the 60's, the Wrecking Crew people were all asked to do instrumental albums, with the hopes of a break-out hit, or maybe some good sales in the hi-fi adult market. The names are now a bit more familiar now, thanks to recent documentaries and belated acknowledgement from collectors. So you get numbers by guiter greats Billy Strange, and Tommy Tedesco, bassist Lyle Ritz, keyboard player Al Delory, sax player Plas Johnson, and the guy the most hit records, drummer Hal Blaine.
Lots of these cuts are fun, but for the first time, the compilers come up a little short. Instead of choosing good songs, they go for names; Michel Rubini played piano for Sinatra, and worked with folks from Sonny & Cher to Ray Charles to Frank Zappa, but his Blues Cha Cha ain't much to write home about. Chuck Berghofer played that great bass line in These Boots Are Made For Walkin', but he's way too jazz to fit well here. And Mike Deasy played for Richie Valens and Eddie Cochran, but his Christian rock cut Lost In The Shuffle is quite awful, and it's not even an instrumental. Some more work was needed pulling good cuts, but still it's worth it for the Wrecking Crew novelties, and that sublime Nitzsche cut.