The Ventures are one of the most compiled bands in the world - perhaps even the most compiled. When they first broke through in Japan in 1964 their popularity suddenly exploded and demand for new product soon out-stripped supply. Liberty Records began to chop up the band’s standard issue US LPs and re-assemble them into countless different permutations in an attempt to satisfy the ravenous Japanese fans. At one point they were said to be outselling the Beatles by a two to one ratio. Over the years the compilations have just grown and grown.
As far as Ventures fans are concerned though, there’s only one compilation that really matters and that is Ace’s “In The Vaults” series. Our first volume appeared in 1997 and we have since issued many long sought after rarities, and enough previously unissued material to add the equivalent of two bulging LPs to the band’s original 60s catalogue. But the hard truth is that, by definition, collections of rarities and unissued material are not the “Best Of” compilations that we desire them to be. They are great listening, and the fans have welcomed them like manna from heaven, but they could not truly be categorised as amongst the cream of the band’s work.
Until now, that is. Volume 4 of the series stands comparison with a respectable “Best Of”. It has the customary rarities and unknown titles never heard before, but all pulled from the band’s golden 60s period. The discovery of the original source tapes for one of the Ventures’ landmark LPs is a big factor in this upswing in quality. “On Stage” was released in 1965 when they were at the peak of their powers. Listeners were amazed at the quality and clarity evident on the Japanese side of the live album, but appalled by the hysterical screaming on side two which made it virtually unplayable.
In reality all of the tracks were recorded at Western Studios in Hollywood and then the audience was dubbed on afterwards. Over forty years later this dubious tactic translates into a wonderful stroke of luck, for now we can hear the band at the top of their game, minus any session help or safety nets, playing some of their very greatest moments live in the studio. And at last we can hear it - perfectly.
As well as a generous helping from “On Stage” we also offer a bucketful of unissued tracks with some, like Delicado and Echo, good enough to have been issued as 45s at the time. Nokie Edwards provides the blistering lead guitar for the vast majority of tracks (and on a dynamite rarity he cut with his own group, the Marksmen), while Gerry McGee brings his characteristic wizardry to Son Of A Preacher Man and Delta Lady amongst others. Don Wilson’s six vocal offerings are his best work, and might have been hits if Liberty had promoted them. The CD closes with the definitive version of Caravan - a dynamic six minute epic full of thrilling guitar work with Bob Bogle and Mel Taylor’s matchless bass and drum showpiece.
In The Vaults Volume 4 is a richly varied, top quality compilation which effortlessly demonstrates that sometimes you can have the best of both worlds. Who needs another “Best Of” compilation when you’ve got a new album of 60s material as good as this?
By Dave Burke
CLICK HERE FOR VOLUMES 1-3 IN THIS SERIES