Boss Guitar! The Best of Jan Davis

Jan Davis

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Boss Guitar! The Best of Jan Davis Review

by Richie Unterberger

As Jud Cost aptly points out in his liner notes, Jan Davis combined some of the best aspects of the dark, lean instrumental guitar rock of the Ventures and the Shadows. There were also edges of the more R&B-oriented work of Lonnie Mack and the more futuristic surf-into-dementia of someone like Davie Allan. Unlike any of these acts, he never did latch onto a piece of obvious hit material, but this collection of rare 1961-1966 singles (along with a couple of previously unissued tracks) has plenty of worthwhile moments. The 20 tracks -- most, though not all, instrumental -- vary from the mundane to the near-great, Davis trying his luck at many different approaches, some of them rather off the wall, to see what might fly in the marketplace. As for the near-great, the hot rod anthem "Boss Machine" rollicks along like the sleekest of shiny just-off-the-lot roadsters; as for the off-the-wall, "Snow Surfin' Matador" sounds like a female Mexican yodeler trapped in a twilight zone between surf and Tex-Mex border music. Several of the singles seem like themes to television shows about fugitives and lost-in-space travelers that never made it past the pilot stage, with their menacing riffs, goofy sci-fi sound effects and organ, bee-simulating guitar swirls, and cheesy horror movie yells. A few of them are routine R&B-anchored instrumental workouts, but Davis could always be counted on to come up with something unpredictable, including a pretty cool take on Kai Winding's easy listening instrumental hit "More (Theme from Mondo Cane)" and the mating of guitar twang with light dancing orchestration on "Hop, Skip and Jump."

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