Ben Vaughn

Instrumental Stylings

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AllMusic Review by

Instrumental Stylings sort of seemed like Vaughn's resume for a Hollywood scoring career. Sure enough, following the release of the album, he contributed the award-winning theme song to the television series Third Rock from the Sun, and much of the music from Instrumental Stylings was subsequently featured on the show. In fact, a couple of the album cuts were originally written for a 1991 muscle car documentary, Favorite Mopar, and a few others originally appeared in Vaughn's score to the documentary Wild Girl's Go Go Rama, so scoring is a function that he had already proven himself primed to tackle. Instrumental Stylings is not a soundtrack album, but it certainly tackles its fair share of instrumental touchstones. Vaughn shies away from no genre: bone-crunching surf, spaghetti western, drag-strip stompers, country-blues boogie, Italian soundtrack, breezy bossa nova, Tex-Mex cowboy ballads, noir Indian music, and numerous mix-and-match hybrids thereof. One of the most surprising aspects of the album is his ability to evoke a wildly eclectic array of sources and styles and create a palpable mood and atmosphere with each one using virtually the same basic instrumentation. The constants on the album are Vaughn's crazily reverbed guitar and rock-steady drumming. He also douses many of the songs with simplistic organ runs and a bevy of alien effects. Amazingly -- and it is a testament to his estimable skills -- Vaughn manages to make the album sound like a compilation of the finest camp sounds from exploitation flicks of the '50s and '60s. He is as gifted at replicating B-movie styles as Todd Rundgren is at reproducing pop/rock ones. It is virtually impossible to be put off by the retro stance of the music because it exudes such a joyous quality and is crafted so impeccably. It may have been created as incidental music, but it doesn't play as such. Instead, it hangs together as a tribute that is often better than the music it is meant to acknowledge.

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