Link Wray - Slinky! The Epic Sessions (1958-1961)

While there was a 20-track 1992 compilation devoted to Wray's Epic work (Walkin' With Link), this two-CD, 46-song set more than doubles the volume. It not only sweeps up some stray previously released cuts that eluded the previous album, but also adds 17 previously unissued outtakes, demos, and alternates, along with rare singles by the Ponies, Doug Wray, and Bert & Ray, on which Link played. Wray's Epic output was not quite his peak; the slightly later period covered by Norton's Mr. Guitar anthology was more outstanding. Still, there's some fine string bending and distortion to be heard on these discs, though it doesn't contain the original hit version of "Rumble" (which was issued on Cadence, not Epic). If there are flaws, these are mostly relative. Wray doesn't get as unhinged as he did on his wildest sessions, and some of the cuts are samey sounding, routine instrumental workouts that get closer to Duane Eddy than was his usual wont. Still, you get some mighty cool ingeniously devious rockers like "Raw-Hide," "Walkin' With Link" (which explodes into the "Rumble" riff at the end), and "Comanche," while his occasional vocal workouts, like "Oh Babe Be Mine" and "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby," are some of the most sandpaper textured early rock & roll singing to be heard. There are also some weird detours into south of the border Tex-Mexisms on "Tijuana" (with a flute solo), "El Toro" (with mariachi horns), "Guitar Cha-Cha," and "Rumble Mambo," all of which sound like soundtracks to bullfights in which the matadors brandish switchblades and wear leather jackets. Some of the previously unreleased outtakes also brandish an odd sort of lounge sleaze ("Kiki" has a cheesy burlesque wah-wahing horn that has to be heard to be believed), while the hitherto unavailable "Moonlight Love" is a surprisingly effective sort of raw Henry Mancini-meets-untutored-Duane Eddy ballad with strings.

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