Hair-raising crew cuts

Jul 2018 Hair-raising crew cuts

Russell’s ReviewBEAT

CD: Various artists –
The Wrecking Crew

Most people don’t know any of their names, let alone their faces, but between them, they played on many of the biggest hits recorded in America during the 60s and 70s.
The ironically-named Wrecking Crew was a loose squad of instrumentalists-for-hire who provided an ever-flowing wealth of sonic sorcery in the studio. They were renowned for their versatility and creativity – and were duly in the highest demand.

In fact, when it comes to the notably ubiquitous drummer Hal Blaine, it’s almost the case that he’s more likely to be on a particular record than not!

Largely deployed in the field of West Coast pop and rock, the musicians were booked in various combinations and configurations – among the most prominent studio denizens being the sticksman Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye, a pre-fame Glen Campbell working as an anonymous guitarist, and Leon Russell on keyboards.
This four-disc collection celebrates just some of the Wrecking Crew’s work, spread across a running time of more than three and a half hours. The first three discs carry smash singles and a number of overlooked gems – and more of the latter on the fourth disc, which focuses on records – mainly instrumentals – released under respective members’ own names (hence the disc’s title ‘Crew Cuts’)

The illustrated booklet and the CD sleeves give as much information as can be verified about who’s playing on what in the course of a showcase compilation that’s presented in superb sound – all the better to appreciate the colour and detail of the individual and collective contributions to records that helped make pop history. As to the selected tracks, it’s amusing to find Barry McGuire’s dark and polemical onslaught ‘Eve of Destruction’ immediately followed by the jauntily upbeat ‘Windy’ by The Association.

And indeed there can be nothing but admiration for the way the Wrecking Crew’s range is wide enough to encompass – deep breath! – The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, The Monkees, Sonny and Cher, The Ronettes, Jan and Dean, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Harry Nilsson, Sam Cooke, Seals and Crofts, Ritchie Valens, The 5th Dimension, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Chris Montez, The Sandpipers, and Lee Hazelwood.