on November 10, 2010
When I first heard this music in vinyl record form back in the early[mid?] Seventies, while living as a hermit in a beat up old shack on a dairy farm in North Carolina, I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. God Almighty, that backwoods primitive Native American Rock and Roll beat, was just so damn Genuine and Authenic, I listened to it over and over and over and over again. And even though I'm not a religious man, the way Link and his backup singers sang about Jesus, just about made a believer outta me. So, decades flew by, and that record got lost somewhere, but I never forgot it, and would seek out different Link Wray music in an attempt to get that good good feeling back. But all the other music that Wray did was WAY WAY different, and nowheres as good as this one. For a long time, I would doubt myself into thinking that maybe I was remembering his name wrong. But LINK WRAY?..... Not too many of them around to get confused with. And FINALLY, thanks to the producers [Polydor} and Amazon, I am back in the heavy heavy but, oh so uplifting groove once again! This album will MOVE you like nothin" else!!! And I also want to thank my long lost buddy, Pete Hoffman for lending that beautiful record to me back then. Thanks, Pete.
on September 15, 2015
This album was issued in 1971, and it's my understanding that this is one of the first, if not the first, records Link Wray made in his legendary 3-track "Chicken Shack" studio. The album has a rough, homemade feel to it which, most of the time, suits the material quite well. There is no polish to this album, and none needed. It's not a guitar album, though it does have some enjoyable guitar moments. It presents a totally different sound than Link's early recordings. This was a comeback album after several years of absence from recording and clearly Wray is trying for a 70s groove, not the early 60s guitar work for which he's primarily known.
I've read criticisms of Link's vocals on this album, but I disagree. I think his singing is strong, though not pretty, I agree. At times it's wonderfully soulful. The singing style is varied, too---though the album notes credit only Link Wray for lead vocals, it sure sounds like there are one or two other people singing lead at times. I'd have to do some research to see if that's true or just my imagination.
Side One is a little weak. If the whole album sounded like this, I'd be hard pressed to give it more than three stars.
>> La De Da reminds me of Levon Helm, but the instrumental background lacks the sparkle that the Band would have provided. So it becomes more like a Van Morrison dirge (no insult intended), which is to say, that it is very sing-song and repetitive, relying upon the sheer weight and grit of the vocals to carry it. Wray is no Levon Helm or Van Morrison, but at times he has even more soul. Not on this track, though.
>> Take Me Home Jesus starts with a simple organ intro and then moves straight to country folk territory. The background singing on the track detracts from the overall feel. This song doesn't benefit from the "Ray Charles" treatment. Ray's vocals are so powerful and perfect that they transcend the sappiness of the cheesy background vocals he employed for many years. Link's vocals on this one don't measure up to his own standard, let alone Ray's.
>> Juke Box Mama is a pleasant, if forgettable, number. The repetitive beat and weak piano work don't help things any. Again, I think of how much better the Band would have done this song.
>> Rise and Fall of Jimmy Stokes has a nice feel. The soulfulness that was missing from Juke Box Mama is present here.
>> Fallin' Rain is the only track on side one written by Wray. Unfortunately, it's not his best effort. The sappy background vocals and weak lead singing rob the song of any potential impact.
Side two is far stronger than side one in both song writing and performance. Wray wrote four of the six tracks on side two.
>> "Fire and Brimstone" is a clanging, chugging, unison shouting, creamy guitar mover.
>> "Ice People" is a country piano driven, all out ballad. Very 70s country/folky.
>> "God Out West" comes back to a feel somewhere between the two previous songs. Chugging beat. Female harmony has been added making it kind of folky, but little bits of guitar shimmer here and there and a nice fuzz solo. Probably my least favorite of this side because the rhythm and chord sequence are just too simple and repetitive for my taste.
>> "Crowbar" injects some needed life. It's a straight blues number. Vocals are coarse, but so appropriate to the blues.
>> Black River Swamp. A slow, burning, soul song. Percy Sledge couldn't have sung it better. The insertion of mandolin and choral background work surprisingly well behind the strong lead vocal.
>> Tail Dragger, the aforementioned Willie Dixon song, finally lets the guitar take center stage. And again, we hear Link reach down for some real soul singing. And that slide guitar complements it perfectly.
I've listened to this album about a dozen times, and each time I like it more.
on December 1, 2010
I bought this album decades ago for some reason and was surprised how much I loved some of the songs. Not all of them, but some. It was not what I expected. Vocals by Link Wray? Indeed yes! I thought years ago and I still think that "Fallin' Rain" and "Black River Swamp" are two of the best songs I've ever heard on record (mp3 now). I hope you'll listen to the snippets and if they sound like you might like them, you'll consider downloading them.
I recall reading by a reviewer that Wray recorded these songs with his crew at his recording shack and when at times they didn't haven't all the instruments they wanted so they used barrels and tubs as drums or in addition to what drums they had. Whether true or not, there's some outstanding music on here, especially "Fallin' Rain", "Black River Swamp", "Ice People" and "God Out West".
I never thought these songs would see the light of day after all these years but here they are and they do light up the day. Not "Rumble" but Rock!