Los Straitjackets / Deke Dickerson

Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits!

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Some songs are born instrumentals, and others have their non-vocal status thrust upon them. Los Straitjackets are the band that leads the field in recording instrumental albums with vocals, having made two albums (2001's Sing Along with los Straitjackets and 2007's Rock en Español, Vol. 1) where guest singers lend their voices to the band's acres of expressive, usually lyric-free twang. Now the Masked Men of Instrumental Rock have added a third vocal album to their list, and this time they've put a new spin on the concept by covering 14 well-known pop, rock, and surf instrumentals, and brought in Deke Dickerson to warble the oft-forgotten lyrics the tunes had all along (except for two numbers where Mark Winchester has come up with fresh words to match the melodies). Of course, part of the gimmick is that los Straitjackets have partnered with a guy best known as a master guitarist to do the vocals on Sings the Great Instrumental Hits, but Dickerson is a solid and capable singer, and he has enough of a sense of humor to know how to play the (usually unintentional) silliness of these verses, and his con brio approach to "Fury," "Magic Star" (better known as "Telstar"), "Perfidia," and "Kawanga" is fitting and happily shameless. Of course, you also learn why hardly anyone sings the words to "Honky Tonk," "Walk, Don't Run," or "You Can Count on Me" (which in instrumental form was the theme song to Hawaii Five-0) by listening to these recordings (which Dickerson delivers in glorious deadpan). Los Straitjackets tear into these songs with their usual skill and guitar fire, and they put imaginative twists on a few numbers, playing "Miserlou" as a song of exotic romance in the desert, and referencing both Jørgen Ingmann and the Sugarhill Gang in their take on "Apache" (and Dickerson's rapping on the latter is itself worth the price of admission). Ultimately, los Straitjackets are at their best without a singer, but in spite of this, Sings the Great Instrumental Hits works because the band is at the top of its game here, and Dickerson is an entertainer who knows what to do with this concept. (But how come they didn't use NRBQ's much-superior lyrics for "Wild Weekend"?)

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