(El Records ACMEM308CD)
Summer’s coming, and there’s only one acceptable soundtrack to it; that’s Surf Music. Arguably the greatest exponents of that no-compromise style of guitar craziness, The Ventures, have had thirty four of their finest tracks assembled on CD to liven up your long drive to Newquay for the weekend. Illustrated with some cool pictures, a band members list, a source discography and discussion with the band from more recent times, it’s a cut above the usual bash ‘em out and sell ‘em cheap compilations.
Providing the sounds to innumerable 60’s dances proved highly successfully for this team of crack musicians, selling over 100 million records and earning them a well-deserved place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Opening with ‘Lucille’s understated beat, relaxed strut and high, twangy guitars, a good, clean sound is established early here, with a surprise key change, and a fade out so characteristic of the style. ‘Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)’ swings along, with a raucous vocal, great drum rolls and a perfectly blending lead guitar. The edgy, hesitant tones of spy film themed are riffed on, in ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’, the lead guitar dragging us to a nervous ending.
‘Mashed Potato’s jokey, clap along beat wins us over straight away, with pizzicato strings thrown in for good measure. The classic, and beautiful ‘Summertime’ is treated with the respect it deserves, with slow, lamenting guitars building and setting up the interplay of twang and lead, set off with subtle drum work. ‘Hot Summer (Asian Mashed)’ continues the spy film style, leading us into the classic ‘Poison Ivy’, building up strongly and with an irresistible hint of vibrato.
No beach dance party would be worthy of the name without ‘The Wah-Watusi’, and The Ventures’ relaxed, swinging take on this classic doesn’t disappoint. ‘Instant Mashed’s call and response guitars please well, with the powerful Red Indian beat supporting throughout. ‘Scratch’ builds well, goes up, and then signs off so neatly, you actually feel jealous of the damn riff.’(Baby) Hully Gully’ has some great twists and turns, and might well be the definitive cover of this
‘Spudnik’s neat and tidy theme, tight as a belt and with lapping water guitar, the slowing train ending shows the band could easily have been called The (Ad) Ventures. Sticking with space, ‘Telstar’ may lack the unhinged genius of Joe Meek’s production, but with its ray-gun sounds and fairground organ, it’s worth persisting with.
‘Calcutta’s treatment reminds this listener of the fodder intended to please children on light radio shows of the period, and the band’s take on the mighty ‘Apache’ is nowhere near as dramatic as The Shadows own. ‘Green Onions’ offers plenty of consolation, however, with a head full of fuzz and swaggering lead.
‘Theme From Come September’ fails to excite with its uneventful climb, but ‘Venus’ makes up for this, with its romping rhythm, clear, Summer contentment and chiming guitars. ‘The Intruder’s tense, moody riff goes through tension and partial release, mixing with the listener’s expectations in a little piece of surf-istication. (Sorry) ‘Lolita Ya-Ya’s double note twang and girly Wow Wow Yeh Yeh vocal lends an air of implied sleaze to an otherwise anodyne tune.
‘Driving Guitars (Ventures Twist)’s aggressive bass rumble, confident lead and wild yelps are kept very tight, very neat and hit all the right buttons. ‘Gringo’s stroll, with twangy guitars providing a conversational style, sounds a little too staid to these admittedly long-punished ears, but is partly rescued by ‘Besame Mucho’s gorgeous bass, Mex Country twang and expert arpeggios. ‘Silver City’s jokey Country and Western still has a little swagger, and ‘Blue Moon’ builds well, while ‘Perfidia’ descends like a demented switchback ride, chased by the nervous guitars. ‘Ginchy’ feels like a repeat of ‘Blue Moon’ though enjoyable enough, while ‘Home’s sad, heartfelt atmosphere and confessional feel shows the band’s emotional side well.
This compilation could not possibly omit ‘Walk-Don’t Run’s ironic understatement, nor ‘2000 Pound Bee (parts 1 and 2)‘ dirty, fuzzy riff, that spawned many copyists. ‘Genesis’ echoing, moody lament is a departure here, its haunting riff bringing in some chilling tinkling piano to great effect, before ‘Walk-Don’t Run is reprised not once, but twice in a wash of breezy confidence.
Your reconditioned Morris Minor needs this CD thundering through it.