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Guitars A Go-Go: “Fender: The Golden Age” and Jerry Cole’s “Psychedelic Guitars” Celebrated by Ace

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If you’ve got guitars on the mind, look no further than a pair of new releases from those compilation experts at the Ace label!  Fender: The Golden Age 1950-1970 (Ace CDCHD 1315) is a new 28-track anthology that manages to be both comprehensive and the tip of the iceberg, where the famous guitar is concerned!  A new companion to the 2010 book of almost the same name (Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970 by Martin Kelly), this set offers a rare chance to appreciate both the talent on the record label and those axemen lending support.  And if Psychedelic Guitars are your bag, you’ll want to pick up the third installment of Ace’s series devoted to the sixties recordings of Jerry Cole.  Derived from Cole’s work on the Crown and Custom labels, Psychedelic Guitars surveys both appropriately trippy originals and well-chosen covers from the likes of Jimmy Webb and Jimi Hendrix.

Are you experienced?  Jerry Cole certainly was.  A veteran session man, his guitar graced countless budget titles in a variety of genres, from country to rock to even the obligatory Tijuana Brass tribute!  Ace’s series of Cole releases has separated the wheat from the chaff, and revealed that great music can be found in the unlikeliest of places.  For Psychedelic Guitars, the label has included 24 tracks from six albums on which Cole – in a variety of guises including The Generation Gap, The Stone Canyon Rock Group and my personal favorite, T Swift and the Electric Bag – was supported by Wrecking Crew stalwarts Don Randi, Steve Douglas and Leon Russell.  Under his own name, Cole recorded for Capitol, and even joined the Wrecking Crew for hitmaking sessions with Phil Spector and Brian Wilson.  He found plenty of business, however, with budget labels eager to jump on whatever musical bandwagon happened to be passing by.  In 1967, that bandwagon was psychedelia.

It’s hard to decide what’s groovier here: the music or the fantastically colorful LP covers reproduced in Ace’s 12-page booklet.  But I’ll give the edge to the fuzz- and feedback-laden music, as selected by compiler and annotator Mike Vernon.  Jimi Hendrix is name-checked on “Our Man Hendrix,” a funky little workout attributed to The Projection Company which doesn’t quite recall its namesake despite some sizzling work from Cole.  Hendrix recurs with a spacey and super-charged cover of “Are You Experienced,” which also gave the title to the T. Swift and the Electric Bag album!  Other than a few well-selected covers including a smoking instrumental take on The Box Tops’ “The Letter,” though, Cole wrote most of the (infectious!) material here.  There’s a great organ-and-guitar freak-out on “What’s Your Bag” from T. Swift, and “Kimeaa” bears a strong Eastern influence.  Cole channels a bit of the style of Wes Montgomery on The Projection Company’s “Tune Out of Place.”

There are even some vocal showcases, including “Are You Experienced.”  “Wild Times” from the Stone Canyon Rock Group and the trippy, drawled “High on Love” from The Generation Gap are akin to acid-tinged country-rock.  There’s an MOR vocal cover of Jimmy Webb’s epic “MacArthur Park” that closes out the compilation; it’s too bad that Webb’s “Up, Up and Away” (which lent another Cole LP its title!) didn’t make the cut here, although Vernon’s liner notes describe it as “quite dreadful.”  Yikes!  The rendition of “Gimme Some Lovin’” offers a nice variation on the original and the original “I Can’t Stand It” could have been a radio hit in its own right.

What stands out about all of these tracks is the sheer musicianship and adventurous spirit of Jerry Cole.  Hit the jump to join a number of Fender’s most illustrious guitar-pickers!

More mainstream are the offerings on Fender: The Golden Age.  Some of rock and roll’s biggest names can be found here, including Johnny Cash, The Beach Boys, The Yardbirds and The Velvet Underground.  With the 18-page booklet as our guide through these Fender-enhanced tracks, we learn that Luther Perkins played an Esquire on Cash’s 1956 “Folsom Prison Blues.”  No fewer than three Fenders were utilized for 1964’s “Fun, Fun, Fun,” with Carl Wilson on a Jaguar, Al Jardine on a Stratocaster and Brian Wilson on a Precision Bass!  For his solo on The Yardbirds’ 1964 “I Ain’t Got You,” Eric Clapton used his Telecaster, while Sterling Morrison employed his Electric XII 12-string guitar on The Velvets’ “Beginning to See the Light” (1969).

Tony Bacon and Martin Kelly are our guides through this journey, contributing essays about the guitars themselves and their place in music history.  The compilation draws straight lines between the set’s earliest track, 1950’s “Boot Heel Drag” from Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, all the way up to 1969’s one-two punch of The Velvet Underground and Donovan, represented by “Barabajagal.”  It’s clear that these versatile instruments were responsible for many of the greatest licks in popular music, across all genre boundaries.  Country and blues run deep, and hand-in-hand, as the earliest tracks evince.  Those country licks soon morph into rockabilly (Dale Hawkins’ influential  and bluesy “Susie-Q,” The Crickets’ “I’m Looking for Someone to Love”) and then surf-rock (The Ventures’ “Walk – Don’t Run” and Wall of Sound architect Jack Nitzsche’s “The Lonely Surfer”).  The 1960s brought a great diversity of music to the charts, from garage rock (The Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie”) to deep Southern soul (Otis Redding’s “Rock Me Baby” and Willie Mitchell’s “Soul Serenade”) and the compilation comes full circle with country tracks like Buck Owens’ “Buckaroo” and the Yardbirds’ blues-infused brand of rock on “I Ain’t Got You.”

Both Fender: The Golden Age and Jerry Cole’s Psychedelic Guitars are available in stores now from Ace Records!  You can pre-order below!

Jerry Cole, Psychedelic Guitars (Ace CDCHD 1328, 2012)

  1. Our Man Hendrix
  2. Hard Times
  3. What’s Your Bag
  4. Wild Times
  5. Kimeaa
  6. Fool’s Luck
  7. Tune Out of Place
  8. High on Love
  9. Free Form in 6
  10. Boil the Kettle
  11. Strange Shadows
  12. Are You Experienced
  13. The Strut
  14. Expo in Sound
  15. I Love You, I Do
  16. Gimme Some Lovin’
  17. Red Eyes
  18. Woman of Mine
  19. I Can’t Stand It
  20. The Letter
  21. The Stinger
  22. Lisa
  23. What Else
  24. MacArthur Park

Tracks 1, 5, 7, 10, 16 & 23 from The Projection Company, Give Me Some Lovin’, Custom CS 1113, 1967
Tracks 2, 6, 8, 11, 18 & 22 from The Generation Gap, Up, Up and Away, Custom CS 1121, 1967
Tracks 3, 9, 12-14, 17, 20-21 from T. Swift and the Electric Bag, Are You Experienced, Custom CS 1115, 1967
Tracks 4, 15, 19 & 24 from The Stone Canyon Rock Group, MacArthur Park, Custom CS 1124, 1968

Various Artists, Fender: The Golden Age 1950-1970 (Ace CDCHD 1315, 2012)

  1. Boot Heel Drag – Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (MGM 10786, 1950)
  2. Catfish Boogie – Tennessee Ernie Ford with Cliffie Stone’s Band (Capitol 2602, 1953)
  3. Feelin’ Good/Please Love Me – Ike Turner (recorded 1955, issued on Crown LP 5367, 1963)
  4. Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash (Sun 232, 1956)
  5. Fender Radio Ad – Faron Young
  6. I’m Looking for Someone to Love – The Crickets (Brunswick 55009, 1957)
  7. Susie-Q – Dale Hawkins (Checker 863, 1957)
  8. All Your Love (I Miss Loving) – Otis Rush (Cobra 5032, 1959)
  9. Walk – Don’t Run – The Ventures (Blue Horizon 101, 1960)
  10. Wonderful Land – The Shadows (Columbia 4790, 1962)
  11. Besame Mucho – Jet Harris (Decca 11466, 1962)
  12. Fender Radio Ad – Hank Snow
  13. Green Onions – Booker T & The MGs (Stax 127, 1962)
  14. Miserlou – Dick Dale & The Del-Tones (Deltone 5019, 1962)
  15. The Lonely Surfer – Jack Nitzsche (Reprise 20.202, 1963)
  16. Louie Louie – The Kingsmen (Wand 143, 1963)
  17. Who Do You Love? – Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks (Roulette 4483, 1963)
  18. Fun, Fun, Fun – The Beach Boys (Capitol 5118, 1964)
  19. I Fought the Law – The Bobby Fuller Four (Mustang 3014, 1964)
  20. I Ain’t Got You – The Yardbirds (Columbia 7391, 1964)
  21. Rock Me Baby – Otis redding (Volt LP 412, 1965)
  22. Fender Radio Ad – Barbara Mandrell
  23. Buckaroo – Buck Owens and His Buckaroos (Capitol 5517, 1965)
  24. Memphis Soul Stew – King Curtis & The Kingpins (Atco 6511, 1967)
  25. Soul Serenade – Willie Mitchell (Hi 2140, 1968)
  26. Beginning to See the Light – The Velvet Underground (MGM LP SE 4617, 1969)
  27. Barabajagal – Donovan (Pye 17778, 1969)
  28. Fender Radio Ad – Jan Howard

Written by Joe Marchese

March 16, 2012 at 10:13

One Response

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  1. There’s a lot of history with the Fender guitar that can only be matched by one other name, Gibson. Which is best Fender Strat or Gibson Les Paul. Neither, they are both the best.


    March 16, 2012 at 12:45

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