Minggu, 05 Agustus 2007

Instrumental Rock Articles

Except for a brief period at the end of the '50s and the early '60s, instrumental rock hasn't been a major commercial force. There have always been instrumental rock hits, of course, and the best instrumental rockers have acted as key inspirations to many of the best rock & roll musicians.

Even before rock & roll became the nation's dominant popular music in the mid-'50s, instrumentals were common in the R&B, jump blues, and country boogie that ranked as rock's chief ancestors. Raunchy R&B saxophonist Joe Houston and lightning-fast country boogie steel guitarist Speedy West were just two of the primarily instrumental musicians who were key influences on first generation rock & rollers. In 1956, organist Bill Doggett's " Honky Tonk" became the first massive instrumental hit of the rock era, although it was more notable for the sax riffs of Clifford Scott than the playing of bandleader Doggett.

The earliest rock & roll instrumental hits, such as the Champs' "Tequila," featured the sax as the lead instrument, but in 1958 Duane Eddy was responsible for changing the emphasis of instrumental rock to the guitar. With his distinctively low, twanging leads (augmented by Steve Douglas's superb saxophone), Eddy was one of the most popular singles artists of his era. His material can sound somewhat repetitious and dated these days, but he was a major influence on the next generation of rock guitarists, from George Harrison on down.

The Ventures were perhaps even more influential, offering a sleek sound with dual lead guitars and crisp drumming. A key building block of instrumental surf music, the group inspired countless nascent guitarists and were extremely popular, especially overseas, where the English language wasn't as key a component of rock music.

Link Wray, although nowhere near as successful as Eddy or the Ventures, may have been the most innovative guitarist of the era. On his 1958 hit "Rumble" and numerous excellent non-hit follow-ups, he pioneered guitar fuzz and distortion on vicious rockers. He was cited as an influence by Pete Townshend, who with several other British guitarists would take Wray's sound a few steps further in the distortion and feedback-riddled guitar leads of British Invasion and psychedelic rock.

In Southern California, Dick Dale developed a reverb-heavy sound with his Fender Telecaster that became known as "surf music."

Though relatively few surf instrumentals were big national hits (the Surfaris' "Wipe Out" and the Chantays' "Pipeline" were the biggest), the surf scene was huge in California, and of course a big influence on the Beach Boys, who (along with Jan & Dean) developed a vocal surf sound that became an important part of early- and mid-'60s rock & roll.

The years 1958-1963 were also riddled with many exciting hits, big and small, by performers who were never heard from again, or only managed to run off two or three big tunes. Besides guitarists like Santo & Johnny and Lonnie Mack drummers ( Sandy Nelson, Preston Epps, Cozy Cole), organists ( Dave "Baby" Cortez), saxophone-driven combos ( Johnny & the Hurricanes), and even bass players (ex- Elvis Presley sideman Bill Black) got in on the act with memorable hit tunes.

Instrumental rock was already decreasing in popularity when the British Invasion overran the States, making vocalists a near necessity. In the years between the initial rock & roll explosion and the Beatles, however, instrumental performers were responsible for some of the most exciting and gutsy rock & roll available. A key force in the preservation of rock's most exciting elements, instrumental rock was also hugely popular at a local level, and many musicians who wet their chops in instrumental combos went on to join, or develop into, important '60s rock groups. In any case, mid- and late-'60s rock groups never neglected instrumental rock entirely -- Paul Butterfield's East West, the Rolling Stones' "2120 South Michigan Avenue," the Who's "Underture," Quicksilver Messenger Service's "Gold and Silver," the Yardbirds' "Jeff's Boogie," Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive," and Country Joe & the Fish's "Section 43" are only a few of the great hard rock and psychedelic instrumentals of the era. While the British Invasion is often thought of as a death knell for instrumental rock, instrumentals remained a key strand of soul music for the next decade. The most popular and influential instrumental soul combo were Booker T. & the MG's. In addition to backing most of the greatest performances on the Stax/Volt label, the Memphis group also ran off a long string of marvelously taut instrumental hits of their own. The Mar-Keys and the Bar-Kays were also popular instrumental exponents of the Memphis soul sound. Saxophonist Junior Walker took Motown to its grittiest extremes on his instrumentals (though he often used vocals as well).

There was also no shortage of one-shot soul instrumental hits. Cliff Nobles ( "The Horse"), jazzman Hugh Masekela ("Grazing in the Grass"), Billy Preston ("Outa-Space"), Love Unlimited Orchestra ("Love's Theme"), MFSB ("TSOP"), and the Average White Band ("Pick up the Pieces") all had mammoth pop hits with soul instrumentals, although these groups by and large didn't limit their material to instrumentals exclusively. Ramsey Lewis developed a breed of soul-jazz-pop in the mid-'60s, as did his ex-sidemen Young-Holt Unlimited who hit the Top Ten when they added a lot of straight funk and came up with Soulful Strut."

While rock and soul instrumentals haven't been nearly as prevalent in the 1980s and '90s as they were in earlier decades, instrumentals will always be a presence in the music, as surprise hit singles and a testament to the power of guitars, saxophones, drums, and other instruments to move listeners without the benefit of vocals.

12 Most Important Instrumental Rock Albums:
Various Artists, Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 1: The '50s (Rhino)
Various Artists, ^Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 2: The '60s (Rhino)
Various Artists, Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 3: The '70s (Rhino)
Various Artists, Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 4: Soul (Rhino)
Various Artists, Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 5: Surf (Rhino)
Duane Eddy, Twang Thang: The Anthology (Rhino)
Link Wray, Rumble! The Best of Link Wray (Rhino)
The Ventures, Walk, Don't Run: The Best of the Ventures (EMI)
Booker T.& the M.G.'s, The Very Best of Booker T. & the M.G.'s (Rhino)
Booker T.& the M.G.'s, Best of Booker T. & the M.G.'s (Fantasy)
Dick Dale, King of Surf Guitar: Best of Dick Dale (Rhino)
Various Artists, ^Guitar Player Presents Legends of Guitar, Surf: ol. 1 (Rhino)

By Ritchie Unterberger

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