The Ventures

Sixties Guitar Party

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The Ventures relied on instrumental covers of vocals hits by other artists for a good part of their repertoire, and this compilation has 18 such numbers, all taken from 1965-1970 releases. There are few surprises here: they're disciplined, tight, and of course guitar-oriented arrangements of familiar smashes by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, the Byrds, Cream, the Rascals, and the like. In fact, not a single song here is anything less than famous: all of them made the Top Ten in their original versions except the Byrds' classic "Eight Miles High" (which almost got that high in the charts) and the Beatles' "Michelle" (only because it wasn't released as a single). While the Ventures' trademark twangy instrumental guitar is undoubtedly pleasing, really that's the only thing separating these pretty unimaginative interpretations from anonymity. In some ways it borders on Muzak, though it's far less objectionable and more rock-oriented, as this too is mainstream background ambient music that utterly fails to either re-create or lend an interesting twist to the originals. If you really want instrumental rock versions of '60s hits, the ones cut by Booker T. & the MG's are far better, more inventive, and funkier, though of course they didn't do as many such tracks as the Ventures did. Nothing on this anthology stands out as noteworthy, but if forced to choose a highlight, you might go for "Eight Miles High," with its combination of fuzz freak-out, lean reverbed leads, stuttering low twang strums, and wordless Ray Conniff-style session vocals.

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