Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Eddie Angel is lead guitarist for Los Straitjackets, America's premier instrumental combo. He has been a devoted Link Wray fan for over 20 years. He learned to play Rawhide, Run Chicken Run and Jack the Ripper in the nightclubs of Washington D.C., Link's old stomping grounds. This is his tribute to the world's coolest rock-n-roll guitarist.
Personnel: Eddie Angel (guitar); Deke Dickerson (saxophone); Peter Curry (piano, drums).
Liner Note Author: Eddie Angel.
Recording information: The Pow Wow Fun Room, Los Angeles, CA (01/16/2006-01/20/2006).
Eddie Angel Plays Link Wray is essentially one master playing tribute to another. As guitarist and composer for "America's Instrumentalists," the Mexican-wrestling-masked Los Straitjackets, Angel has staked out his own (albeit more recent) livelihood and legend as a black belt of the form. Angel is both a guitar primitive and sophisticate, treating the instrument with an equal blend of reverence and irreverence. On his own and with Los Straitjackets (as well as the cavemen-dressed Neanderthals), Angel writes beautiful, wistful guitar instrumentals ("Pacifica," "University Boulevard") and also unleashes primitive, tribal, booty-shaking assaults ("Itchy Chicken," "Arula Mata Gali"). His own compositions and performances rival the best of his predecessors: the bright ocean rolls of the Ventures, the gentile twang of the Shadows, and (more to the point here) the snarling, jagged menace of Link Wray. Wray has been an important touchstone for Angel for decades, ever since Tex Rubinowitz first turned him on to the elder guitarist's boiling instros back in the early '80s, and it is Wray's complete rejection of established rules and institutions that have informed a lot of Angel's playing in subsequent years. (Angel also shared the stage with Wray numerous times in the '90s.) With the passage of the old master, Angel is the true inheritor of Wray's idiom. But listening to Angel pay tribute in his fifth decade, as a master himself, also makes clear the difference between the two players. Wray's aggression came out in his twangy, devil-may-care looseness; Angel has a more focused, tighter attack. You can hear that here on "Comanche." Wray's version, from Sundazed Records' Slinky! The Epic Sessions, is a limber, hip-shaking stroll, while Angel's take is a tough and aggressive fuzzbomb. On the other hand, it's harder to parse out the differences between the artists' versions of "Slinky," other than to say that Angel has a bit more mastery over his tone (which is cleaner), both in the studio and in live performances. Both, however, are masters of phrasing, and hearing Angel move through the power chords and scaled guitar figures of this track is like hearing him tracing his own six-string DNA. The bottom line is this: nobody plays Link Wray like Link Wray, but Eddie Angel is a true disciple. And hearing him put his own stamp on these compositions is instro manna from heaven, a crossing of generations -- and a whole lot of danger, sex, and menace distilled in a flurry of guitar notes. ~ Erik Hage