Over the years, there were many sides to Link Wray – Elvis-crooner Link, country & western Link, acoustic Link, one-man-and-his-drum-machine Link, even San Francisco Jerry Garcia-flavoured Link – but rightly towering above all these in the popular imagination is the original blueprint that he nailed down once and for all during a recording session in the spring of 1958 for an instrumental smash entitled Rumble. That day saw the first recorded evidence of the Link you’ll find on this CD. This is the man with the Danelectro Longhorn guitar plugged into a brace of wired-together amps cranked up as loud as they can go, who punched holes into the speakers with a pencil just to get the right distortion and went on to record a blizzard of killer instrumentals in a shack out in the woods, oblivious to changing trends and mop-topped newcomers from Liverpool.
Then come the tracks taken from one of Chiswick’s LPs “Early Recordings” (CDCHM 6) which really started the ball rolling: classic slabs of early 60s Swan-era Wray material. Having licensed Wray’s “Live In ‘85” and “Growling Guitar” albums (CDWIK 972), Ace put together what was to be the forerunner of this current collection, “The Original Rumble” (CDCH 924), because, as Roger Armstrong recalls “we realised that we didn’t have an album with Rumble on it”. Logically enough, the time then seemed right to bring Link Wray into the studio to cut an album of new material in the style of the essential, no-frills Link of the old days. In the event, the October 1989 sessions at north London’s legendary Pathway Studios produced enough material for two Ace albums, “Apache” (CH 286) and “Wild Side Of The City Lights” (CH 296). Link returned in 1995 to Ace, for a burst of activity, centred around the celebrations marking 20 years of the Ace/Chiswick label. He headlined the label’s anniversary party on 21 October that year at the Bottom Line in Shepherd’s Bush, and he went back into the studio for Ace too. As with his 1989 sessions, these recordings eventually appeared as two albums – “Shadowman” (CDCHD 638) and “Barbed Wire” (CDCHD 770). Tracks from all of these appear on this collection, which aims to bring together on one disc the highlights in the Ace catalogue of the full-throttle, slicked back, black-leather-and-shades Link. It spans almost forty years of recording and includes some of the most primal instrumentals ever put to tape by the King of the Wild Guitar.
By Max Décharné