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‘Los Straitjackets: Deke Dickerson Sings the Instrumental Hits’ – Album Review

Yep Roc

Los Straitjackets and Deke Dickerson have each been loyal to a fault when it comes to preserving the original spirit of rock and roll.

If you were to lay out the various projects they have been involved in over the years, it would undoubtedly spin your head off its socket. So what happens when the two parties get together?

Nothing but flat out rock and roll fun.

“The World’s Number One Instrumental Combo,” Los Straitjackets, have crossed paths many times over the years with Dickerson, but this pairing on record is a match up for the ages. You want surf? Rockabilly? Garage? Exotica? You want it all rolled into one? You got it!

The premise of ‘Los Straitjackets: Deke Dickerson Sings the Instrumental Hits’ is, just as the title suggests, plain and simple. These guys have taken songs that are primarily remembered for their instrumental renditions over the years and added lyrics to them. In some cases, the lyrics already existed, in others, they dug for sources form the past to come up with some interesting takes.

Case in point, ‘You Can Count On Me,’ otherwise known as the theme from ‘Hawaii Five-0.’ Dickerson and Los Straitjackets did some excavating and found that the one and only Sammy Davis Jr. had recorded a vocal version of the song on his 1976 album, ‘Song And Dance Man.’ (Davis also does the theme from ‘Mary Hartman’ and ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ on that album by the way.)

Though ‘Wild Weekend’ was a big instrumental hit for the Rockin’ Rebels in 1963, the song originally had lyrics. So, seeking out these sometimes lost lyrics became the basis for what is one hell of an entertaining track.

Purists may run and hide by their cover of the Shadows No. 1 U.K. hit, ‘Apache,’ but it’s actually one of the album’s highlights. The song was a hit for the famed instrumental combo in 1960, and then a year later, it hit No. 2 in the U.S. as the cover version by Jergen Ingmann. Over the years, the song has been covered by several artists including late ’60s rockers the Edgar Broughton Band, the Incredible Bongo Band and the Sugarhill Gang. Dickerson and company take elements of all these versions and mix them together into yet another rendition of the song. The 1981 hit by the Sugarhill Gang was issued as ‘Apache (Jump On It),’ using the guitar melody line while adding rap into the stew. Yes, Dickerson and Los Straitjackets utilize that element as well, encouraging us all to “Jump on it,” while in the process, somehow employ a disco beat to the whole thing.

Another highlight is ‘Kawanga.’ Originally recorded by Los Straitjackets back in 1999, ‘Kawanga’ has gone from first rate instrumental mayhem to Trashmen inspired insanity just by adding some whacked out, nonsense lyrics — in the process, making it a genuine garage rock classic. Elsewhere, the guys tackle such landmark songs as the Ventures’ ‘Walk Don’t Run,’ Santo and Johnny’s ‘Sleepwalk,’ and the Chantay’s classic, ‘Pipeline.’ In each case it’s startling when the vocals come in. You know they’re coming, but the original istrumentals are so heavily etched on your brain (well, our brains anyway) that it’s still unexpected. Once you get past that surprise, it somehow all makes perfect sense.

Also noteworthy is their take on the song ‘Popcorn.’ Though the original version, written by electronic music pioneer Gershon Kingsley, first appeared in 1969, it is best known in the form of the 1972 hit by Hot Butter. A Top 10 hit in America — and a chart topper  around the world — it was one of the earliest hit records utilizing primarily electronic instrumentation. The rendition here takes it out of its natural element and turns it into a genuine surf rockin’ classic. We’re not sure where the lyrics came from on this one, but poetry it ain’t. On the other hand, poetry wasn’t what they were aiming for here, so all is well. The infectious melody line persists whether served up via synth or guitar.

So, ultimately the goal here was to make an old-fashioned, fun, romping and stomping party platter. Mission accomplished — and masks in-tact — ‘Los Straitjackets: Deke Dickerson Sings the Instrumental Hits’ registers a whopping 10 on the Fun-O-Meter.

Now crank up that ‘Kawanga Banga Boogie Beat’ and rock!

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