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CD of the Week

April 11, 2007

Walk – Don’t Run: The Best of the Ventures!

Maybe it’s because spring is here and I’m looking forward to summer. Maybe it’s because I love Fender guitars, Fender amps and REVERBBBBBBBB! Maybe it’s because I’m just expanding my guitar vocabulary a bit to include more surf music. Maybe it’s my memories of hanging out with mom and dad’s vinyl record collection, listening endlessly to stuff like Johnny Rivers and The Ventures. Maybe it’s because I’m teaching my son to play guitar, and you can’t play the guitar without knowing Walk, Don’t Run. (More essential than Stairway, and far more hip). But right now I am totally digging on this CD. I downloaded it from iTunes and I can’t stop playing it!

Okay, there are glaring omissions on this CD. First, where the heck is Telstar? Where’s the Ventures’ cover of the Chantays hit Pipeline? Where is Apache? Well, they are all available for download too, and you can finish off this great collection for three bucks (and each of those tunes is worth at least a buck). But pretty much everything else you really need by the Ventures is here.

Some of this music conjures up images of Aunt Bee bursting into Opie’s bedroom while he and a friend are listening to some of that new, wild, corrupting rock and roll music. This is the stuff that inspired Greg Brady to start using such evil terminology as “far out” and “groovy.” You know, the surfy, dance-oriented instrumental guitar music that is positively tame and harmless but for some folks conjured up images of Satan luring young people straight into hell with savage jungle music. I’m certain that many a graying beehive’s heart was cast into genuine fear by the reckless abandon, pounding drums, overdriven guitars, and savage rhythms of The 2,000 Pound Bee (run for your life!), Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (SCARY!), The Savage (’nuff said), and Underground Fire (Could that one be more obviously about Hell?)

This is all instrumental music – no vocals to be found. And it’s great. Dig the bluesy groove of Ram-Bunk-Shush, which is more Chuck-Berry-meets-Freddie-King than Dick Dale. Or the cool, overdriven guitars (with feedback!) of Action Plus. And the ultra-twangy spy guitar of Dick Tracy. Not to mention the greatest TV theme song of all time, Hawaii 5-O. (Okay, Barney Miller, Dobie Gillis, and the Munsters also had really good theme music). Anyone familiar with the Pulp Fiction soundtrack will recognize Surf Rider (here entitled Spudnik). PF included a cover of this tune by The Lively Ones, but the Ventures’ version is the original. These guys were the real pioneers of instrumental rock.

There’s not a dud on this set. Okay, maybe Lullaby of the Leaves is unnecessary (it sounds almost as much like Walk, Don’t Run as Walk Don’t Run ’64 does). But it’s a great set. If you like twangy guitars, surf music and primal rock and roll, you can’t go wrong here.

Now grab that Strat, make an E-shaped barre chord, and go A-G-F-E (5th fret, 3rd fret, 1st fret, open). Just walk it. Don’t run.

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