Various Artists

Great 60s Instrumentals

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Are these great instrumentals of the 1960s? As songs, for the most part, yes: these include such classics as "Pipeline," "Telstar," "The In Crowd," and "Wipe Out," as well as non-rock standards like "The Stripper," "Moon River," "Music to Watch Girls," and "Washington Square." Are these great versions? Well, no. For these aren't the original hit recordings, but covers recorded by Nashville studio groups for the Spar recording company, presumably in the '60s (no precise recording dates are given, if any even still survive). Aside from famed producer Billy Sherrill (whose orchestra is credited with "The Stripper"), none of the artists are well known, though it's likely some top Nashville session cats played on various tracks (and, according to the liner notes, Boots Randolph plays sax on the Howard Carroll Orchestra's "Rinky Dink"). The songs weren't all originally popularized in the '60s, either, with some '50s stragglers like "Honky Tonk" and "Tequila" also making it into the program. But that's not the main problem with this compilation. The more important issue is that, like most covers played by anonymous sessioneers, these aren't nearly as exciting as the original versions, which are actually much easier to find on CD. Often the arrangements are soundalikes, which are pointless acquisitions considering the ready availability of the superior originals. Those that deviate from the originals don't match, let alone surpass, the prototypes. Usually the notable variations are more mild curiosities than anything else, like Buddy & Bunny Burden's "Tequila," which substitutes an organ base for the wailing saxophone of the Champs' hit; the Merits' "Moon River," whose stripped-down, mellifluous, guitar-dominated approach is a pleasant contrast to the familiar orchestral version; and Jack Eubanks' "Love Is Blue," which likewise has a less orchestral sound than the original, though that might have just been a function of a lower budget. The CD has better packaging and liner notes than the vinyl this stuff appeared on when it was first released, but these still make for superfluous entries in the '60s instrumental music canon, even for fans who specialize in collecting that kind of material.

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