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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! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 16, 2012 at 10:13