December 1, 2003

Los Straitjackets
Supersonic Guitars in 3-D

Under the silly wrestling masks and cheeky showmanship, Los Straitjackets have covertly honed their instrumental sound into something truly original. Sure, the fingerprints of archetypal instrumental guitar rock from the likes of the Ventures and Link Wray are still there, but on 3-D, the Straitjackets’ seventh record, they’ve bolstered their sound with a more cinematic approach than on previous efforts, buffing-out the arrangements with vibey production and strategic sprinklings of horns and baritone guitars. With their proto-rock stylings and ear for funky vintage tones, guitarists Eddie Angel and Danny Amis still sound like they haven’t heard a fresh lick since the Kennedy administration, but somehow the two never sound like campy throwbacks. Without a doubt, Supersonic Guitars in 3-D is the band’s best release yet. Viva Straitjackets! Yep Roc. —Darrin Fox

Gil Parris and Jam This
Gil Parris and Jam This

What possessed Gil Parris to name his new album and band “Jam This,” anyway? On the surface, one could easily interpret the move as a blatant hop onto the bandwagon—the jam-bandwagon. Considering how healthy the jam band scene is right now, what musician wouldn’t want to ride that gravy train? But when it comes to improvising epic, crowd-pleasing solos in an eclectic range of styles, Parris is more than qualified to deliver the goods onstage, as the hotshot young guitarist proves conclusively with his wailing, soul-searching live version of the melancholy Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

If anything, though, the title Jam This does a service to under-appreciated guitarists everywhere by merely pointing out the obvious—that musicians have been “jamming” since the dawn of time, and spectacular jamming can be found in many different scenes, not just the one labeled “jam band.” In fact, when it comes to the art of grooving, there are more than a few so-called jam bands out there who, despite enjoying popularity and success, couldn’t find a fat pocket if they were a troop of kangaroos. Jam This, with its challenging riffs, funky grooves, extended improvisations, and inspired arrangements (for example, Jeff Beck licks over James Brown’s “Sex Machine”), almost seems to say with a playful cockiness, “Hey buddy—yeah, you, over in that jam band. Think you can play? Well, here—jam this.” —Jude Gold

Davie Allan & the Arrows
Restless in L.A.

To appreciate Davie Allan’s place in guitar history, one has only to hear some of the explosive instrumental soundtracks that he and the Arrows recorded between 1967 and 1969 for such biker flicks as Born Losers, Devil’s Angels, The Glory Stompers, Wild in the Streets, and, of course, The Wild Angels, which helped catapult the Arrows to the top of the instrumental rock heap in 1967. The ride didn’t last long, however, and Allan spent the ’70s playing in Top 40 and oldies bands and working in a radio station. He attempted to re-string the Arrows in ’82, but the band’s full resurrection didn’t come until 1994, with the release of Loud, Loose, and Savage. Five albums hence, Allan and crew have released Restless in L.A., a kick-ass collection of songs that spotlight Allan’s majestically fuzzed-out guitar playing and even feature—of all things—vocals on a couple of tracks. But the true essence of Allan’s powerful melodic style is revealed on the purely instrumental cuts such as “Arrow Highway,” “The Toxic Terror,” “Quiver,” the heavily psychedelic “Demente,” and the harmonically ambitious title track, with its haunting, Ennio Morricone-inspired interlude. Allan slathers on fuzz so heavily that it’s amazing he can focus it to create such clear and dramatic imagery in his songs. But crank up this music and you can almost feel the wind-in-your-hair freedom of a sunset cruise along the California coast, and hear the staccato blast of that stroked Harley that’s speeding you along. Sundazed. —Art Thompson


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