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Link Wray: Wray’s Three Track Shack (Acadia 8082)


His place in the history of music was (permanently) secured in 1957...by “Rumble”, one (literal) stroll through a menacing garden of power-chords - with (mostly) a blizzard of high-speed near-monotonic attack as its token guitar “solo”. And...seldom has one cut - before or since - been credited w/such wide-ranging effects... But Link Wray, of course, didn’t stop there. And...the body of work he put down, between 1955 and 1965, is - without a doubt - one of the truest glories of early rock’n’roll...lean, mean, savagely expressive, and a genuine monument to artistic integrity overall...

Retiring - in disgust - to the Indian reservation where he (along w/his brothers) was born, they then converted an old/disused chicken coop into a supremely low-tech recording studio...and set about recording whatever they felt like, finally free of all “commercial” restrictions. And, given that - now - all the Wray brothers are dead...we’ll (sadly) never know exactly when the individual tracks were cut...given the (nigh-on) criminal critical disregard for this material over the last few decades.

Four and a half albums came out - two on Polydor/one on Virgin...and the rest on minors (the “half” reissued on Big Beat 65, and one - by “Ray Vernon” - that’s yet to attract any attention whatsoever) which the good people of Arcadia have apparently not yet heard about. But, the other three - albeit w/out any extras - are all here. Because, only months before Link’s death, someone - finally - has had the good sense to collect together the all major label “three-track shack” recordings... But, misunderstood by the hippies - and dismissed by the punks - still, these are his “basement tapes”...a trawl through his veritable wellsprings - and, the centerpiece of this set, the never-before-reissued Beans & Fatback is, in itself, a nigh-on masterpiece...flawed only by the inclusion of one (platitudinous) ballad written by another...

The rest, however, is a (very) mixed bag. His brother Vernon’s album - Wasted, by “Ray Vernon” - is mainly redeemed by the truly nasty “Tailpipe”, and - no - I’m NOT going to sell you my copy, simply because that track is a genuine keeper! Similarly, the “Mordacai Jones” album on Polydor is very mixed, but never scales the heights that Link’s own work does. And, even Link Wray (his Polydor album of 1972) betrays an uneven mix of pure genius - “Tail Dragger” (his other great Wolf cover) + “Fire & Brimstone” - as well as some genuinely weak cuts, plus a goodly leavening of great home-made blues/rockers...

But, the real deal - and (absolutely) worth the price of admission - is Beans & Fatback. Nail cans rattle, fuzztone snarls...and (on one occasion) raw lumps of wood substitute for drums. Because...this is where we actually get to hear Link explore his earliest roots - in a brilliantly unique meld/re-exploration of the blues/gospel/hillbilly/rock’n’roll that (eventually) shaped his work... And...to be frank, home-made art (almost) never equals this, particular, peak. So...just listen - and, he died, by the way, on the fifth of November, 2005...




John Henry Calvinist