Link Wray hit the Top 20 with his classic instrumental "Rumble" in 1958, but -- incredibly -- it would be his only single, and only release of any kind, for Cadence Records. For convoluted reasons, Cadence boss Archie Bleyer decided he didn't want Wray on his label, although Link was soon picked up by Epic Records and embarked on a lengthy subsequent recording career on various labels. Bleyer's decision explains the pretty weird title of this archival CD, which performs one of those vault-clearing miracles collectors are starting to take for granted in the early 21st century. For it turns out that Wray actually did cut quite a bit of unreleased material in his brief Cadence era, with no less than 25 tracks (mostly instrumental, as you'd expect) surfacing here, all but two of them ("Rumble" itself and its flip side, "The Swag") previously unissued anywhere. Like many such incredible finds, however, it plays better in the head than on the stereo. That's not so much because it's substandard in performance or fidelity -- it isn't -- as because it's pretty similar to the material Wray would do for Epic slightly later, in both sound and actual song selection. In fact, Wray remade a bunch of these for Epic, including "Raw Hide," "Walking with Link," "Comanche," "Dance Contest," and "Pancho Villa" (retitled "Guitar Cha-Cha" in its Epic incarnation) -- all of which are presented in two or three versions on this CD. The other cuts -- and, to some extent, the songs that resurfaced later in slightly different arrangements -- are okay, but not as distinctive, adventurous, or wild as either "Rumble" or much of what Wray would do in the 1960s. There are also some unexpectedly mainstream, or at least mainstream by Wray standards, choices of material, with covers of "Heartbreak Hotel," Duane Eddy's "Rebel Rouser," Pérez Prado's "Patricia," and Tony & Joe's obscure minor hit "The Freeze." In addition, Ray Vernon takes unexpected lead vocals on a couple of mediocre generic late-'50s rock songs. Of what's left, "Drag Race" (with some ultra-fast staccato picking), "White Lightnin'," and "Creepy" are fairly good, gutsy rudimentary rockers, though again nothing to put on the plane of Link's finest work, more hinting at his later explosive innovations than carrying through with them. Make no mistake, this is still a worthwhile discovery, with good sound and detailed liner notes that do their best to untangle the complicated story of what Wray did for Cadence and why his stay with the company was so short-lived. It's more for the dedicated Wray fan who wants as much of his vintage output as possible, however, than the more average Wray admirer who wants to concentrate on his best music.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger