Ace Records is well known as the home of the Fireballs, the timeless instrumental combo that legendary producer Norman Petty shepherded to the top of the charts in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their success inspired a generation of instrumental combos, several of whom beat a path to Petty’s door. Of these, only the String-A-Longs made any chart headway, but given a predilection for cute melodies and “beautiful music” – not to mention his own record successes with the Norman Petty Trio – instrumentals would always have great appeal to the producer.
Earlier in date than our recent surveys of Petty’s garage and pop-psych recordings on Big Beat, “That’s Swift” compiles the very best of the non-Fireballs rock instrumentals that Norman cut in the early 1960s, and a rocking little disc it is too. Established professionals like Canada’s successful Wes Dakus’ Rebels rub shoulders with obscure outfits such as the Tiaras and the Chandelles, all displaying the patented excitement that Petty easily captured on record. There’s R&B flavoured items from the Gliders and the Chances, moody melodies from the Techniques, King Pins and Bentleys, and several quasi-surf classics such as Jetster, Riptide and Termites. Most of the acts hail from New Mexico and West Texas, and feature local guitar heroes like John Wagner (Five Counts) and Ysidro Garcia (Gliders).
As with all of Ace’s releases featuring Norman Petty produced material, “That’s Swift” is derived from several years of meticulous tape research in Clovis, New Mexico on the half of your humble compiler, ensuring that it boasts much unissued material (including an unreleased Fireballs cut) and of course top-notch sound. I had a ball digging through this unsurpassed archive, as well as enjoying the rare opportunity to chat to many of the players who passed through the hallowed portals of Norman’s 1313 West Seventh Street facility in those years. The liner notes go into great detail about the recordings, the bands that cut them, and Petty’s world-renowned production techniques. Petty die-hards already know the delights in store for them, but even if you’re just a casual instrumental fan, you won’t want to miss “That’s Swift”.
By Alec Palao