Cookin': The Smooth Guitar and Organ Sounds of Al Casey

Al Casey

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Cookin': The Smooth Guitar and Organ Sounds of Al Casey Review

by Richie Unterberger

This collection assembles 16 of Casey's solo recordings -- most of them instrumental, most of them recorded for the small Stacy label, and two of them previously unreleased -- from 1956-1963, including his low-charting singles "Cookin'" and "Jivin' Around," though oddly his biggest 45 ("Surfin' Hootenanny") is missing. The versatile Casey is probably best known for his guitar work, but he also played organ on quite a few of these sides, and sometimes both instruments at once by virtue of overdubbing. Perhaps that versatility worked against his success as a solo artist, though likely it worked heavily in his favor in his long career as a session musician. For on these tracks at least, he didn't stake out any area of his own, even as he proved his competence at several. There was low twangy guitar in the style of Duane Eddy, though Casey (who, like Eddy, worked with Lee Hazlewood) recorded in the style before Eddy became a star. There were real tight soul-jazz organ grooves (especially on "Cookin'," "Doin' It," and "Jivin' Around"); generic smoky lounge R&B sax-driven workouts; instrumental novelties ("Indian Love Call"); and a silly Hazlewood-penned ditty, "What Are We Gonna Do in '64?," which blatantly poached its tune from the Orlons' hit "South Street." It's not something that packs the consistent punch of, say, a Duane Eddy best-of or early Booker T. & the MG's, though there are some similarities. Nonetheless, it's a peg above more purely generic late-'50s/early-'60s rock instrumentals, with a somewhat (albeit not hugely) greater sense of suave assuredness and wit. Lee Hazlewood collectors will want to note the presence of four songs that he wrote or co-wrote; he also took the lead vocal on "Guitar Man," done in his customary drawling sing-speak that makes it uncertain whether he was serious about what he was doing or not.

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