Bill Frisell, ‘Guitar in the Space Age’ (Okeh)
Seattle guitarist Bill Frisell grew up playing in a rock band, so like every musician of his generation, he was drenched in surf music, early R & B and all manner of dance and novelty tunes. So it was a great idea to revisit tunes like Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser” and the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl.”
Trouble is, Frisell gets so enraptured with the dreamy, shimmering sound of reverb that he sometimes forgets to give listeners much of a story. The result, with a few notable exceptions, is very high level Muzak — which wouldn’t preclude putting this album on at a party and watching your guests lean in from time to time, wondering what that extremely familiar and seductive tune was in the background.
Exceptions? Two peppy numbers Frisell discovered when he delved into Speed West’s work — “Cannonball Rag” and “Bryant’s Boogie.” Also the wah-wah blues lines and tough staccato bass of “Messin’ with the Kid,” a “Surfer Girl” suffused in slow-dance desire, a beautifully-arranged version of “Rebel Rouser” and the closer, “Telstar,’ which nicely captures Frisell’s goal, which he says was to convey the sweet optimism of those years, as we headed toward the moon.
Other new releases
Jackson Browne, “Standing in the Breach” (Inside)
Stevie Nick, “24 Karat Gold — Songs From the Vault” (Reprise)
Jason Alden, “Old Boots, New Dirt” (Broken Bow)