The wired, weird and wigged out world of black fuzz joins the Ransom Note…welcome!
Link Wray – Link Wray (a.k.a. The Red Indian One)
Now I love The Stones big time & Exile On Main St is definitely one of my fav Stones albums (if not their best) but even I got a little bored recently of hearing about its repackaging, re mastering, new old tracks (who do you think you are kidding Mr. Jagger) ,original artwork etc.. etc… Once I had actually heard the extra tracks and re read about the unique mash up of rock’n’roll, blues, country and soul I couldn’t help feeling a little bit cheated……….
Released in 1971 (a year before Exile) on Polydor Records, Link Wray returned with an album best described as ‘a unique mash up of rock’n’roll, blues and country and soul’.
I had been hearing the legend for years about how great it was and ‘its my favourite’ but as I owned five Link Wray LPs I thought I knew what to expect….well ‘Rumble’ this ‘aint. Whilst The Stones sat around in a mansion in the South of France waiting for Keith to ‘put the kids to bed’ , Link Wray knocked this out in 3 days in a wooden shack with a three track called (you guessed it) ‘Wray’s Shack Three Track’ outside of Washington DC. To say this LP has a ‘downhome’ feel about it is the understatement of the year. Apparently the guitar amps had to be set up outside and recorded by a mic on the window sill and the percussion was limited to foot stompin’ and a tin of nails rattling.
Add to this the fact that Link’s brother Vernon was in charge of engineering it, and brother Doug the tin rattling, and Mama Wray thanked for the hot coffee and good chilli, it’s pretty much a family affair.
The first side kicks off with four songs written by ‘Y.Verroca’(at a guess a nom de plume of producer Steve Verroca) which are all brilliant, gospel tinged country flavoured cuts that immediately highlight one of the biggest surprises here. Link Wrays’ voice. If you bear in mind that LW is best remembered for his short, sharp proto-punk instrumentals, and that after contracting tuberculosis during a stint in the Korean war (did you hear that Mr. Street Fighting Man) was told by the doc that he would never sing again, this is a revelation. Link pretty much covers every base you can think of…gospel, rebel rousing blues, introspective ballads but the fun REALLY starts with the 1st of six LW penned originals.
‘Fallin’ Rain’ states ‘my mind is like a spring in a clock… I can’t unwind’ as Link laments the world of violence and confusion around him over a piano and gentle backing vocals. ‘Fire and Brimstone’ continues the theme with Link in full Appalachian preacher mode, whilst the bass guitar gets the party started and the guitarist peels off some lethal lead runs over Link protesting ‘I see fire’ like Brad Dourif in Wiseblood. ‘Ice People’ sees Link bemoaning the state of mankind and compares the longhairs to Jesus Christ, before running down the plight of the Native American Indians and African Americans. Just when these tales of dread really start getting to you, Link kicks back with ‘God Out West’ testifying about how all ‘he needs is the mountains where he can be free’ over some sustained buzz saw guitar whilst singing Hallelujah. ‘Crowbar’ sees him using his ‘toolbox’ as an analogy for his problems with a troublesome woman (I guess) over acoustic guitars, piano and dirty lead guitar. As you reach the end of the album Link lays ‘Black River Swamp’ on you. A mandolin led hymn to the joys of being born a country boy ‘down where the cotton grows’. This track (like the rest) showcases the down home grace and easy charm of the album. The music and atmosphere that it creates is so natural and unforced you could easily imagine yourself sitting on the porch listening in. The whole thing is wrapped up with a cover of Howlin’ Wolfs ‘Tail Dragger’ that sounds sooo much like an ‘Exile’ cut its untrue. The last thing you hear is Link drawling ‘I’m a tail dragger, I wipe out my tracks, when I get what I want…well I don’t come sneakin’ back’!
I scored my copy from Flashback on Essex Rd at a very reasonable price.
Better hurry now.