Norman Petty is best known for recording Buddy Holly; serious rock fans are also aware that he oversaw the popular instrumental recordings by the Fireballs in the late 1950s and '60s. Even serious fans, however, are largely unaware of just how much material Petty recorded in the '60s, especially as he ran one of the most prominent recording facilities in the southwestern United States. That's Swift: Instrumentals from the Norman Petty Vaults has a couple of dozen tracks cut in 1961-1967, most of them taken from rare singles from groups that never made a significant national commercial impact, and a few of them (including the Fireballs' sole contribution, "Torquette") previously unissued anywhere. Those familiar with the Fireballs' output know, to some degree, what to expect here: brisk, cleanly executed guitar instrumentals, often with a Tex-Mex flavor. That's true to some degree of much of this material, but actually it's more interesting than much of the Fireballs' stuff that has circulated, both because of the variety of groups included and the somewhat more modern styles on display. There's a definite surf-influenced bite'n'twang to some of the better tracks, like the King Pins' "Door Banger," the Chandelles' "El Gato" (whose picking is so agile that it would not be at all out of place on a top-tier general '60s surf instrumental compilation), and the Impact V's "Riptide." Those happen to be the first three tracks on the CD, which can't quite keep the same momentum going through the whole disc. Still, it's a pretty listenable, cool comp, and Petty's willingness to change with the times to some degree is evident in selections like Wes Dakus' Rebels "Sour Biscuits," with its unusual wobbly guitar effects; the Chances' "Black Grass" which, as its title indicates, has a definite rootsy country influence; the almost folky exotica of the Chances' "Camelback," and Wes Dakus' Rebels' almost folk-rock-ish "Bach's Back!," a 1966 release that's one of the latest recordings on this anthology. As Petty-recorded '60s instrumental comps go, this is considerably above the average, and worthy of attention from serious '60s instrumental rock fans in general.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger