Thursday, October 03, 2013

Duane Eddy Anthology - Twang Thang

Duane Eddy's work is familiar to anyone who has ever heard r'n'r instrumentals and the songs are the
basis for many later genres, most notably the 60's surf sound. Working with Lee Hazelwood as producer, Eddy's guitar was recorded through a 2000 gallon water tank (used as an echo chamber) to accentuate his "twangy" guitar tone. His first single in 1957, "Movin' & Groovin'" was a minor hit (taking a riff from Chuck Berry as the intro), but his follow up, "Rebel Rouser" was a smash and his career took off from there.

This 2-disc set is chock full of tunes - his hits are included, of course, but lots of other great, and some not-so-great, numbers. I don't have any liner notes with my copy of this CD, but I am assuming that the songs here are at least reasonably in chronological order, making "Stalkin'" most likely the B-Side to "Movin' & Groovin'" and it is a terrific, sinister soundtrack that any villain would be proud to call his own! "Rebel Rouser", naturally, is a great monster, and "Ramrod" continues in a similar vein. He pulls out some quality, reverbed blues in "Three 30 Blues", and "steals" the melody from the traditional "Frankie and Johnny" for "I Almost Lost My Mind". The wailin' sax is nearly as important as the twangy guitar on many of the tunes, like the wild "YEP!" and "Forty Miles of Bad Road", another hit combing these two instruments with background whoopin' and yellin'! He adds his guitar to the Sharps "Have Love Will Travel" (not the Sonics classic) while "Quiniela" is mellower and practically jazzy.

Of course, nowadays, "Peter Gunn" is totally ubiquitous, having been covered by everyone in the world multiple times and used in countless movies, TV shows, etc., but in 1960, this was one of the most exciting sounds around! A simple, painfully catchy riff, "yackety" sax and cool groove, this cannot be beat for instrumental sounds! There is some schmaltzy crap though, like "First Love, First Tears" - truly terrible, giving a major counterpoint to magic like "Peter Gunn". "Tiger Love and Turnip Greens" is an over-the-top screamin' hillbilly stomp while "Trambone" is a quieter, country-ish incidental-music number and "Route #1" sounds something like an Alka Seltzer commercial! Another soundtrack, "Because They're Young", is good, but nothing like the rocker that was "Peter Gunn", the strings in "Kommotion" are simply a distraction and "Pepe" is again, nothing special.

Disc two opens with a novelty number, "Dance With the Guitar Man", that still holds some nice licks, and this style continues in "Boss Guitar". While there is some of this annoying "singing" in "Sugar Foot Rag", Eddy's playing shines on this bluegrass classic. He serves up a country ballad in "The Window Up Above" and mellows out Jerry Lee Lewis' "Crazy Arms" before giving us a nice, bluesy "One Mint Julep", though the horn section and cheesy organ takes away from the coolness of the number. "Hard Times" is a bit more of a return to his classic roots, though with a more modern (at the time) sound. But he gets corny again in "Swanee River Rock" and then goes folk-rock, complete with electric 12-string, but with a dash of country, for "Buckaroo". Another campy atrocity is "Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar", but when the producers just let him play his guitar, like in "Roadhouse Boogie", you get high-quality instro-rock again. Though "Zephyr Cove" and "Road Race" are pretty decent, they lack the urgency and fire of his best, rockin' works.

The Art of Noise re-mix of "Peter Gunn" just adds annoying sounds and effects to this masterpiece, diluting its power and genius. I guess enough of the original shown through, though, as this aberration was a worldwide hit! So, what do I know?! This weird mix of cool and crap continues in "The Trembler" and "Rockestra Theme" - you can tell that these could be good songs (the former better than the latter), but the production does its best to cover it up.

This collection is worth it for disc one - and disc two could have been left off completely, though obviously Duane wanted to show that he was still active. When it's good, it's great, but when it's bad, it's pretty damn abysmal. But, any guitarist can - and should - learn from this man!