Various Artists – Coolsville! (review)

Various Artists – Coolsville! Hits & Rarities From the Golden Age of Pop Instrumentals (Fantastic Voyage) review

Where did the instrumental go?  Once a staple on radio and a hit with consumers, the wordless pop song is sadly a thing of the past.  Fantastic Voyage has assembled Coolsville!  – a great, two-disc collection of these mostly-forgotten classics.

Many of the familiar giants of the instrumental genre are here, beginning with the father of the surf guitar, Dick Dale, and his signature “Let’s Go Trippin’” which still sounds fresh today in it’s unbridled excitement.  The king of the twangy guitar, Duane Eddy is here with the excellent “Pepe” and the string-laden “Because They’re Young.”   The instrumental juggernauts The Ventures get two of their earliest hits – the stone-cold classic “Walk Don’t Run” and big band nugget “Perfidia.”

What sets this collection apart from others is that it doesn’t stick to just one type of music.  Sure, there’s plenty of surf music here, but you might be surprised to find country legend Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date,” blues guitar slinger Freddy King’s “Hide Away,” or a pre-Booker T & the MG’s (then known as the Mark-Keys) with “Last Night,” all included in this eclectic set.

Fantastic Voyage always does a great job of mixing in classics with more obscure tracks, and this set doesn’t disappoint – “Fried Eggs” from the Intruders, with it’s vibro-guitar is really good, and with a title like “Fickle Chicken” (by the Atmospheres), it’s gotta be good!  There’s also lesser-known songs from famous instrumental bands like The Champs and Santo & Johnny.

In addition, there’s plenty of strange instrumentals to fit any taste – from the otherworldly  “Apache” from Jorgen Ingmann, to the spooky “Werewolf” from the Frantics (complete with snarling!), to the downright bizarre “Jack the Ripper” from Link Wray.

The 18-page booklet has a fantastic essay explaining the history behind many of these great songs, plus photos of some of the artists and record labels thrown in for good measure.

With its incredible diversity of 50 tracks spread over two discs, Coolsville! makes for an excellent driving album, or a great addition to that next party.  –Tony Peters