by Alan Taylor
Cruisin' down the highway, be it Route 66 (from Chicago to LA), the Californian Surf Route 101 or our own west coast run: the A39 to Fistral Bay.... it just ain't the same without the radio blasting all the way. Except that these days you're better off providing your own musical waves, which is where Ace's latest series of classy compilations comes in.
Rock instrumentals provide the ideal, no barriers, cruisin' music. No barriers because, without words, instrumentals represent the perfect international musical format. And no barriers, because cruisin' music should massage the brain, not distract it from the demands of driving with the half-baked lyrics of modern teenage angst.
The intoxicating and timeless charm of Tequila has been around for a cool 40 years, but who can resist its magic combination of rhythm and riff. The Champs are one of several hitmakers contributing to this album, and connoisseurs will wish to note that Link Wray's Rumble is all present and correct in its original hit recording form. Strangely omitted from the soundtrack album, its role in the film Pulp Fiction brought Link a legion of new fans who can at last lay their hands on it with ease. Other rock guitar classics include Lonnie Mack's Wham! and The Fireballs' Bulldog, while Booker T pounds the Hammond on Wade In The Water, B Bumble stings the ivories with Bumble Boogie and The Wailers bring it all together for their darkly dramatic Tall Cool One.
Variety being the spice of life, there's a nod in the direction of rock's roots with a 1948 blues from Pee Wee Crayton whilst slideman Elmore James slips the right kind of bottleneck around Hawaiian Boogie and Rene Hall picks out Twitchy - both from 1953. Themes are a common, er, theme in rock instrumentals and two of the best are here in the shape of Mission Impossible and The Pink Panther.
Mongo Santamaria's irresistible Watermelon Man went Top 10 in 1963, but don't mention the word jazz - it was just "cool baby" in Austin Powers' terminology. Which is where we provide you perennial teenagers with all the justification you need when you try to explain this instrumental purchase to your kids. Tell them to go check out the Green Day instrumental on The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack, and then point out that Misirlou is from Pulp Fiction and that Sir Isaac is none other than Isaac Hayes, better known (to them) as Chef from South Park. You don't know South Park? Don't worry, they will.
No barriers. Instrumentals - they're timeless.
By Alan Taylor