Friday, January 8, 2016

Crazy Aces "Greatest Hits Volume 2" CD review

Review by Noel Squitieri, taken from
What do a group of successful Nashville sidemen do after performing, recording and touring for over twenty years with some of the biggest names in country, pop and rock music? Yep! Form a surf band to play surf music in Nashville, and then make a surf record.

My interview with Crazy Aces is here in which Jeff Senn discusses their musical backgrounds, inspirations, musical influences, gear and more. Again I want to thank Jeff Senn and Crazy Aces for enthusiastically giving me a peak inside their band. I appreciate it.

There are thirteen tracks on the CD. The first and last tracks are under a minute each and act as bookends to the CD. The first sets the stage. The first thing heard is the sound of a needle dropping on a scratchy record, and the sound is old – like a worn-out record. “Are these the sounds of days that are past, or do we record a new dimension of history?” we are asked after hearing a great piece of vintage-sounding spy called Chainsaw Dance.

Then Invasion of Malibu plays; a fun 1’st Wave kind of tune that wouldn’t be out of place on any record made back in the ‘60s. Catchy melody for sure. They all have catchy melodies. Right off the bat I have to say I’ve missed bongos. There aren’t enough bongos in surf music. This CD uses bongos to great effect, and I love that. Jedd’s Sled shows just how much fun bongos are and how well they fit surf music. A favorite is Eastwood Outlaw, spot-on whistling and all. It hits all the right musical cues.

An impression forms as the tunes unfold during the record. They form on a kind of musical journey through various forms of surf-instro music. Attention Shoppers reminds me so much of those fun Ventures covers of favorite standards and novelty tunes they were so fond of recording. If you’ve listened to their Never on Sunday you’ll understand. The record pivots with Arigato Terauchi, which he could have recorded and performed himself. After that an edgier and rock-ier sound takes over with Hippy Trip. Makes me almost want to head-bang. Fun stuff. There’s more later, but one of those wonderful sound poem surf tunes comes next, The Last Song. That sensitive and gorgeous acoustic rhythm guitar is played by Steve Wariner. This is one of those tunes that you play at the end of a perfect day on the beach, after the last wave is surfed and the bonfire has turned to warm glowing embers. How that feels is how this tune feels.

Theme From Crazy Aces follows. More hard-rocking surf-instro. Driving bass and drums, dirty guitar tones and all. Boogie Bored isn’t boring. It has a memorable melody phrase that ties it together along with some great guitar playing. Did I mention all the guitar-playing on this record is terrific, as is all the musicianship? It is. Killer good. Lots of love has already been expressed for Bangers, and it’s well-deserved. It’s a roller-coaster ride of hard-driving surf, rapid-fire rhythm changes and hard drumming.

Winston Churchill’s “finest hour” quote introduces the Return of Chainsaw Dance, which ends with the sound of an old record scratching to the empty last groove. So what to say in conclusion about a record like this? I was going to write something about how this record makes me think of what would have happened if some of the Wrecking Crew had formed their own surf band and recorded and performed under their own name.

Then Jeff told me this, “I hope you enjoy the record as a listen or guitar playing inspiration. That's the real, main goal of the whole Crazy Aces thing. To create music that's just plain fun to listen to, no commitment from the listener, no proving ground for our musical skills, just memorable melodies and fun music. When I quit playing on the road I knew I'd want to keep playing, of course, but after being in the serious, demanding side of the music business for years I finally had the chance to do whatever I wanted, for my own gratification and this band, this music, was my answer to myself.”

This CD is all that. Mission accomplished.

One last comment. The guitars used on many tracks on this record were guitars any one of us could afford to buy. Many Teiscos and even a 1964 Harmony Stratotone. I quit learning guitar as a kid because my own Harmony, a 1963 high-action jazzbox with razor-sharp bridge cables for strings was just no fun to play. I wonder what would have happened if I’d selected a Stratotone instead? I was floored when I saw the list of instruments Crazy Aces use. So all you closet Teisco and Harmony collectors out there? Time to come bring those guitars out into the open. These old guitars sound great!

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