Rhino closes its five-volume rock instrumentals series with an 18-track outing devoted to surf guitar. This fast-paced, prickly, and frequently exciting form may not be among the most diversified structurally, but if does offer some surging playing from its practitioners. They range from founding father Dick Dale to its most popular bands, the Surfaris, Belairs, Ventures, and Chantays. While not particularly a hardcore surf collection, this disc certainly outlines its virtues, and the tunes were long enough to display guitar proficiency, but short enough to prevent self-indulgence and repetition.
This is a pretty cool compilation of instrumentals from the '70s. 12 of the 18 songs here were Top Ten hits, with the rest being minor hits. The title says "rock" instrumentals, but only a few of the songs are actually rock. There is more funk and disco than rock here. One of the odder trends of the '70s was dance/pop versions of classical instrumetals, and this CD has three examples of that.
The most consistently enticing disc in the Rock Instrumental Classics series, this is both a great party and driving record and a window on the rhythms that powered soul music in the '60s (and early '70s, in two cases). In addition to some obvious choices (the four Booker T. & the MG's tracks, the Mar-Keys' "Last Night"), it also offers some left-field picks, such as the varied approaches to Latin music offered by Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, and El Chicano. The stock of virtuoso performances here is all but endless: the bass-and-drums breakdown on Cliff Nobles and Co.'s "The Horse," the glinting guitar solo on the Bar-Kays' "Soul Finger," Hugh Masekela's questing trumpet on "Grazing in the Grass".
For those needing a reminder of Cole's very original and expert piano playing, this 18-track roundup of some of his best instrumentals should fit the bill. Part of Capitol's three-volume series of Cole's classic trio sides (the other two cover the vocals), The Best of the Nat King Cole Trio includes gem after gem from the group's 1943-1949 prime and features the classic lineup that included guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Johnny Miller. With Cole and Moore seamlessly blending lines throughout, the group forged the standard for many a piano trio to follow by way of classics like "Jumpin' at Capitol," "Sweet Georgia Brown," and "These Foolish Things"…