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If ever there was a "band that launched a thousand bands," it would be the Ventures. Founded in Tacoma, Washington in 1958, their guitar-based instrumental sound would prove hugely influential, inspiring countless followers to pick up a guitar, bass or set of drumsticks and try to emulate their heroes. As these musical neophytes would soon learn, it wasn't as easy as it initially appeared. The Ventures were masters of tone and technique, deftly arranging their instruments in a seamless approach that was instantly recognizable. Because they were an instrumental group, their songs needed no translation, which resulted in a huge worldwide following. While many rock bands have claimed to be "big in Japan" over the years, the Ventures were the country's first rock superstars and they maintain a devoted worldwide following to this day. With over 100 million records sold, they are the best-selling instrumental group of all time.
Sundazed is proud to rightfully address the magnificent Ventures' catalog--each title has been sourced from the original Dolton and Liberty Records' reels and painstakingly mastered to sound and feel like they were originally intended. Along with precise artwork restoration on each title, these new Sundazed editions stand as the definitive re-releases of these monumentally important albums. Long may they rock!
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Make no mistake about it, The Ventures were first rate musicians, musicians idolized by such artists as George Harrison, Joe Walsh, Carl Wilson [who said that The Beach Boys learned every Ventures’ song from their early years], Stephen Stills, John Fogerty, and many others for whom their stylish, tight, and textured sounds provided both inspiration and lasting aspiration. Then there were the effects and guitars used by The Ventures, instruments that created significant and individual sounds, signaling an era of finer electric guitars that enhanced and developed signature sounds. This also lead to artists having multiple guitars on standby, so that they were not limited in sound quality.
Of all The Venture albums, their two standout productions were Surfing and The Ventures In Space, which was probably their most significant, experimental, and original album … coming out in 1964, where they didn’t so much capitalize on the space race, but in essence developed a signature sound for those heady days that would last long into the future. While their other outings did capitalize on a sound, and were dismissed just as quickly. The Ventures In Space has stood as a landmark of musicianship and vision, that may sound a bit cheesy today, yet was certainly at the vanguard, though not intentionally, for the psychedelic sounds that were just around the corner.
The album jacket was magically breathtaking, an impeccable dragster with a couple at a make-out vista overlooking Los Angeles, the city of lights below them, and the vastness of the universe spreading out before them, causing me wonder how many people saw this spot as a point of musical pilgrimage, as if something majestic could be transcended just from being there. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent with that cover, one that suggested a profound sense of both danger and wonder, emotions that lead me into the psychedelic haze without hesitation.
The Ventures’ slick guitar work was eloquently laced with futuristic effects that often came across as theremin-ish, yet the liner notes profess that all sounds were musically created without studio effects. Of course today we know this not to be true, nevertheless with their fine mix of surf meets space, they were poised to create a memorable album … and they did. While the album still holds up well today, most people will see it as a diversion rather than an essential musical genera that elicits replay and rediscovery. On that note, this is one of those essential albums that should be visited in both mono and stereo to fully comprehend the outstanding studio production, as the stereo version is nothing more than a reprocessing of something that was singularly great to begin with, and as with film, should never have been colourized to accommodate the fledgling stereophonic sound that was taking hold.
I had the privilege of seeing The Ventures live on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey one summer, much later in the 60’s … they were campy, wore outfits that seemed worn and tired, goofy choreographed dance steps, and playing a smattering of their hits for a half hour three times a day for that weekend on Steel Pier, in mid afternoon no less, causing me me exhale with a bit of sadness, and smile along at the same time to a musical memory.
Review by Jenell Kesler