Link Wray 1971 S/T LP Polydor 24-4064

link 1971

Link Wray’s Polydor debut from 1971 sounds kinda like The Band meets The Rolling Stones, with a healthy side of Van Morrison playing gospel blues somewhere in the Mississippi Delta.

When someone gives a description like that I would hope this would be a record people would want to hear. I had always assumed Link Wray was just the rockabilly dude who wrote Rumble. Ever since a nondescript burned CD arrived on my doorstep from an angel in Scotland by way of Jason Spaceman my life changed musically.

This LP, Polydor 24-4064, is one of those gems that needs to be introduced to all your friends who appreciate any form of rock, country, blues or psych. It ticks all those boxes and more. This record and it’s brethren Mordicai Jones and Beans & Fatback that make up Link Wray’s Three Track Shack trilogy are played with such honesty and feeling they jump right out of the grooves. Oh yeah, they get funky too.  All this recorded in a converted chicken coop. I know right?

The opening track, La De Da, is a heartfelt gospel-ish song and when you close your eyes you imagine a full band with backup singers just romping and stomping their way thru this all with giant smiles on their faces. Kinda like one of those Saturday night get togethers you read about that happened all over the south and Appalachia. People just showing up with whatever instrument they own and joining in.

Take Me Home Jesus is a flat out gospel ballad sung with such honesty and conviction you immediately believe.

Juke Box Mama. This is as funky as this record gets. Link digs even deeper for the vocals on this track. The bass sets the tone here and the rest of this song falls right into place. Juke Box Mama actually swings with that funky ass bass.

Rise And Fall Of Jimmy Stokes is 1970’s country storytelling. This however goes way beyond country storytelling. Again the bass is the pulse of this song. It paces this track along at an even keel. Not far off from Link Wray’s first rap track.There is an amazing instrumental interlude with Link’s guitar and bass dueling against one another.

Fallin’ Rain is just a flat out gorgeous ballad. Link’s voice even sounds different on this track. When the back up vocals come in your heart just melts. This whole song is played seemingly effortlessly. Just a joy.

Fire And Brimstone is a stomper. This time Link’s acoustic guitar leads you into a land below the Mason Dixon line. His vocals are more guttural. F&B just takes off and doesn’t stop. There is an instrumental mid section that does not slow the F&B down one bit. Wear comfortable shoes for this track. Your feet wont stop moving(or stomping).

Ice People is soft yet dark. Once again so convincing and wonderfully played.

God Out West rocks. God Out West rolls. It makes you believe once again. You get that signature Link Wray guitar midway through the song. Best track on the LP in my opinion. Singing Hallelujah!

I cant decide if Crowbar is country storytellin’ or a Blues song. It is a microcosm of this whole LP. It meshes so many styles it almost defies description. Wicked guitar on this song too!

Black River Swamp is a country gospel song. Beautiful in its simplicity and exquisitely played. Another song in which Link Wray’s vocals stand out like yet another instrument.

Tail Dragger has the most aggressive electric guitar on the record. Yet there is that funky bass. Link’s vocals are also at their most aggressive here. Yet another confounding track as it swings along albeit aggressively.

This record entered my life out of nowhere. Being a disciple of all things Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized I never heard Jason Spaceman name check this LP in any interview. Thank god my friend Barry in Scotland was listening and picked up on it. Now I cant imagine my life without it.

I have turned on a lot friends to this record and it’s popularity is growing with each person doing the same. I am not sure what it is. Maybe the amazing honesty and conviction within the grooves. Maybe because it was recorded in a converted chicken coop and not at Muscle Shoals or in any studio. Perhaps it is because it sounds so effortless and like everyone playing is grinning from ear to ear knowing full well they are part of something special.

90% of the LPs you see for sale are cutouts which means this record never sold many copies. Now it sells for $30 to $50 regularly on line. I don’t work for them or have any other incentive other than to spread the word but Hip O Select have these CDs in replica die cut sleeves and it is remastered. It is a gorgeous package.http://www.hip-oselect.com/scr.public.product.asp?product_id=89e7f7f7-61f5-7f0f-c102-2527b55e2713&cat_id=42029550-8DEE-4E9C-B712-5F1511256DD9

Do yourself a favor. Buy one. Could be the best $20 you ever spent on a CD.

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3 responses

  1. Thanks For the tip! I was not familiar with this album, mostly I had heard his earlier stuff from the 50’s and 60’s. Hip O Select is sold out, but I found a mint used CD copy for almost the same price.

    1. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it Kevin.

  2. Well the first thing that struck me was that the first lyric on the album was pretty close to the first lyric on the Soulsavers song Revival. After that little bit of deja vu, I started hearing all kinds of other music references. You mentioned them in the preface to this blog post. There was a certain point in the late 60’s where a lot of rock bands were trying to find a new voice and the Band’s music was a source of inspiration. However, I think in the case of this Link Wray record as well as the Stones, and Van Morrison and the Band they weren’t influencing each other, but rather they had coincidentally found a gold source of influence in early American blues-based music. (Anthology of American Folk Music) Having the same sources of inspiration naturally makes all of these artists ripe for similarities in the way they play and write, and the Link Wray record is no exception. What makes this record stand out for me is the rhythm section and the vocals. Wray’s ability to play guitar is a given, so you expect that to be top notch and it is. But the way he keeps the rhythm section true to his roots, and the way he mixes his vocal style keeps every song fresh. The background vocalist give some songs a great vintage R&B feeling. I could go through every song and suggest this riff sounds like the Stones, or this vocal sounds like Van Morrison, but in the end I think It’s Link Wray playing to his roots. It’s VERY good record. I’m sorry I missed it the first time around, but glad you found it for me. Thanks!

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