Instrumental rock flourished in the U.S. between 1958 and 1964, between Elvis entering the Army and the Beatles invading American shores. The rock instrumental, featured on Axes & Saxes, filled the vacuum with lots of groovy music like the Shadows' "Apache" and the Viscounts' "Harlem Nocturne." The coolest stuff, for the most part, features guitar, like the Ramrods' haunting version of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" and Dick Dale's nifty "Misirlou." The overlap between the guitar and the sax in an interesting one, because as the '60s dawned, sax-fueled records like Lee Allen's "Walkin' with Mr. Lee" and the Champs' "El Rancho Rock" would make way for surf bands like the Ventures and guitar heroes like Lonnie Mack. Axes & Saxes, with 22 cuts, is a solid collection, but any rock historian worth his or her salt knows that a number of essentials are missing in action. The collection has excluded any rock & roll instrumental before 1958, and left off monsters like "Tequila" and "Green Onions." Yes, these are serious omissions, but one usually assumes that it's difficult to obtain the rights to certain songs (at least for the right price). Axes & Saxes, despite these shortcomings, is a cool collection and a good introduction to the fine art of the rock & roll instrumental.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.