Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Shadows - Shadows Are Go! (1960-66)

The Shadows enjoyed 20 British hits between 1960 and 1965, and this is their first American compilation. So we probably don't even want to wonder what that says for the Great American Record-Buying Public, smug, snug, and secure behind their piles of Ventures vinyl and sorry surf compilations, blissfully oblivious that a mere ocean away, entire generations were shaking to the Shads. 

You know the songs, of course, effortlessly magnificent guitar standards one and all: "Apache," which Jorgen Ingmann took to copycat heights back in 1960; "Wonderful Land," which Mike Oldfield later executed with heart-aching majesty; TV's "Thunderbirds Theme," "FBI," and "Perfidia." These melodies are scored into your brainpan regardless of whether you know, or even care, that the Shadows used to be Cliff Richard's backing band, or that the horn-rim headed Hank Marvin has been cited as a major influence by every guitarist from Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on down. The Shadows' story isn't all rosy, of course. As the smashes dried up in the mid- to late '60s, their efforts did become desperate and drippy. Shadows Are Go!, though, has no time for torment; it's just bang bang bang, through the hits till they hurt -- and with a cutoff date of 1966, there's not a vocal cord in sight. Through "Kon Tiki," "Atlantis," "Guitar Tango," and "Frightened City," its 23 tracks take your senses by storm, easy listening burned through with a vitality that makes a mockery of the unhip reputation the band (like their boss man) acquired après Beatles. Indeed, though later sensibilities found the band's music frequently included in the lounge kitsch hall of fame, the Shadows shake that specter off in the same way as Elvis Presley retained his rock sensibilities long after his life turned to schmaltz. The fact is, this band was kicking butt while you were still saying "bottom," and this isn't a retrospective after all. It's a manifesto.


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