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Link Wray

Rocks

Review by Gary Hill

Link Wray was a pioneering guitar player. He's really legendary, as is his contribution to rock guitar. This compilation set gathers up 34 tracks over a number of years into one collection. As you would imagine there are standout tracks here along with some that fall a bit behind the others. All of this is reasonably effective, although a bit dated. It's mostly instrumental, but there are few tunes with vocals.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Raw Hide
The guitar sound on this thing is all class. The tune is packed with energy and groove, too.  This is sort of the middle ground between surf guitar and old-school rock and roll.  It's also very effective.
Batman Theme
Here we get a cool rocking cover of the familiar theme. There are some odd bits of dialog. I think I prefer the Ventures' version of this, but only by a little. This is cool stuff, and a lot of fun.
Tijuana
I like this take of the classic tune quite a bit. It has a lot of energy and some interesting little angles built into it.
Slinky
Another classy installment of instrumental guitar rock and roll, this isn't a surprise, but it's effective.
Right Turn
Now, I dig the whole energy and groove of this one a lot more. The last track felt a bit phoned in, but this one seems more inspired. The piano brings a lot of the table, too.
I’m Countin’ On You - Ray Vernon
This number has vocals. It's more of a 50s rock and roller ala Jerry Lee Lewis and the like. The energy is great, and the variety it brings helps this stand tall in the set. The boogie-woogie groove is great.
I'm Branded
This thing is a lot of fun. It has some great instrumental work and sounds. While this predates the psychedelic scene by a couple years, it has a lot of that vibe in some ways.
Hand Clapper
1950s rock and roll complete with wailing saxophone is on display here.
The Swag
That old-time rock and roll is at the heart of this fun rocker.
Comanche
There is sort of a gang-shouted vocal bit as almost punctuation on this piece. Beyond that, the instrumental rock and roll vibe is at the heart of it. This is an entertaining piece.
Deuces Wild
I love the energy of this thing. The guitar sound brings some real magic, and the drums hold it with style. There is some smoking hot guitar work on this, and it's one of the highlights of the set, really.
El Toro
Drums bring this thing into being. The cut works out from there with some Latin sounding guitar joining the mix. This definitely brings some variety, particularly when the horns join, but it's not one of my favorites here. It has a real spaghetti Western vibe to it in a lot of ways.
Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby
This is a song with vocals. It's very much a blues rocking tune that has a garage rock sound built into it. It is a classy cut and a nice change of pace. I love the guitar fills on it, too.
Studio Blues
Another solid instrumental, this doesn't really standout, but works well.
Hang On
Now, the energy and drive on this cut really help it stand tall. This is a fun rocking instrumental tune.
Jack The Ripper
For a song with a title like that, this is downright cheerful. It has some strong guitar soloing and is a classy surf guitar styled number.
Turnpike USA
I like the tasty groove of this piece a lot. There is some rockabilly built into this fun tune, along with the usual old-school rock and roll and surf guitar leanings. This is a highlight.
The Black Widow
There is nothing wrong with this playful rocker. It's just a bit of an "also-ran" to me.
Big City After Dark - Ray Vernon & The Raymen
With plenty of blues rock in the mix, we're back into garage band zones with this thing.
Danger One Way Love - Ray Vernon
With vocals in the mix, this is a doo wop tune. I'm not a big fan of that style of music, so this is not one of my favorite pieces here. Still, it has its charms. For instance, the guitar solo is great.
Dance Contest
This instrumental is entertaining. It's not a highlight, but it works well.
Run Chicken, Run
I dig the fast paced groove on this. The little chicken sounds made by the guitar are cool, too. This is a standout track, really.
Pancho Villa
The Latin edge to this cut works really well. The song has a great vibe to it. In fact, I'd consider this to be one of the highlights, as well.
Radar
While this is another pleasant instrumental rock and roller, it is sort of middle of the road on the set. It does have some cool guitar work, though.
Mary Ann
This cut has vocals, bringing some variety to the set. There is a garage band vibe here, and this works well.
The Outlaw
We're back into spaghetti Western zones with this cut. It really feels like something that would fit into the soundtrack of one of those movies. This is less rock and roller and more just guitar showcase. It does have some surf guitar elements at play, too.
Hold It - Ray Vernon & The Raymen
I dig the sort of screamed vocals on this energized garage rocking tune. This is fun.
Dinosaur
More old-school instrumental rock and roll is on the menu here.
Big City Stomp
This is another old school rock and roller.
The Shadow Knows
Opening with the standard "Shadow" tagline, this cut is a lot of fun. It has a great groove to it. There are bits of creepy laughter at times along the road, too.
Dixie Doodle
Mixing "Dixie" and "Yankee Doodle," this live recording is a lot of fun. It has plenty of surf guitar long with some hints of bluegrass and more.             
Ace Of Spades
I dig the killer old-school rock and roll on display here. The harmonica brings an interesting angle, but it's the guitar that sells this thing.
Mr. Guitar
Packed with a real surf guitar vibe, this is fun. It has a great energy to it.
Rumble
While this number is solid, it's not really a highlight. I get that it's his trademark piece, but honestly, I think a lot of the music here is superior. I tend to think the set would be stronger overall if this were somewhere earlier in the track list. Still, it does have some powerhouse guitar work.
 
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