Ronny & the Daytonas

G.T.O.: The Best of the Mala Recordings

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After years of suffering from various bootleg compilations direct from noisy 45s of dubious legality and awful fidelity, Sundazed puts together simply the best collection available on everybody's favorite Nashville hot rod group. John Bucky Wilkins -- aka Ronny Dayton -- was the nominal group's focus as songwriter, singer, and lead guitarist, doing most of his hot pickin' on a nylon-string classical model. As a songwriter, his principal inspirations were Brian Wilson and Chuck Berry. His producer was Sun Records alumni Bill Justis ("Raunchy"), a supposed rock hater, who nonetheless knew how to cut a hit. As a result, the handful of singles and two albums from Ronny & the Daytonas' Mala Records period (1964 to 1966) stand as not only some fine Beach Boys-influenced music, but some great rock & roll that actually goes somewhere, and isn't merely imitative. This 20-song comp is split almost evenly between the styles of their two biggest hits, with the first 11 tracks echoing the rocking, gas'n'go call to arms of "G.T.O."; the balance features the lush harmonies and Beach Boys ballad style of "Sandy." The big news here is that for the first time ever, first-generation master tapes have been used for everything -- and even an original, multi-layered, mono on mono (i.e., noisy and hissy) recording like "Sandy" sounds better than it ever has. The secret delight on here is "If I Had My Way," probably their musical high point as a band. And with a few tracks and some extra liners lopped off, it is also available on vinyl.

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