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Merrell Fankhauser - The Best of Merrell Fankhauser

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 2 / 7 / 2012

Merrell Fankhauser - The Best of Merrell Fankhauser
Label: Gonzo Multimedia
Format: CD


Appealing double CD compilation from underrated Kentucky musician and guitarist, Merrell Fankhasuer

Never totally getting the credit he deserved through the years maybe this compilation, the first to totally cover the five decades that Louisville, Kentucky singer and guitarist Merell Fankhauser has been making music, will finally go some way to righting that wrong. Unfortunately Fankhauser seems to be known for claiming to write ‘Wipe Out’ made famous by the Surfaris (according to some sites Fankhauser actually won the publishing rights to the song in the 1990s) than any of the songs featured on this collection, which is a shame as this two CD collection really does contain some of the best of this talented musician's work. Fankhauser’s work is detailed on many web sites, and there is a informative and comprehensive account of his work thankfully enclosed with this collection; Fankhauser has covered so much ground musically that it would take a major article to fully do the man justice so we’ll just concentrate on the actual music that’s featured over these two discs rather than Fankhauser’s background. The first disc opens with two songs dating from the early sixties and Fankhauser’s time with the Exiles, the band he formed after leaving his surf instrumental group the Impacts. To someone who only discovered Fankhauser through the reissues of his work towards the end of the sixties via the Sundazed issues at the tail end of the nineties, these recordings come as a pleasant surprise. The first song, ‘Too Many Heartbreaks’, immediately transports the listener back to the early sixties. Shades of Ricky Nelson and even Buddy Holly remind us of more innocent times, but the following song (and following years) ‘She’s Gone’ show that Fankhauser had been influenced by the British invasion, not necessarily the Beatles but many of the R’n’B groups that were breaking through around that time. It’s a Pretty Things influenced song that must have sounded quite wild for its time. Apparently it appeared on an album titled ‘The Early Years’ that has obviously got to be checked out. A couple of songs from the ‘Fapardokly’ album originally issued in 1966 follow. The dreamy ‘Lila’ shows how much Fankhauser had progressed from his surf days, although very much of its time the song still stands up today and not for the last time has the listener wondering why Fankhauser didn’t make it way back then. Three songs from 1968’s ‘Things’ are included by which time Fankhauser was fronting a new band, Merrell And HMS Bounty’; the dual guitar attack on ‘Drivin’ Sideways On A One Way Street’ shows that Fankhauser didn’t let the psychedelic movement bypass him, and the other two songs featured from that album also show that he had not totally disowned his pop roots, ‘Girl I Am Waiting For You’ updates his early sixties work nicely and ‘I Am Flying Home’ proves Fankhauser had not discarded his R’n’B leanings either. ‘Things’ really should be heard in its entirety though. There are four tracks from Fankhauser’s next band, MU, which cover the years 1971 to 1974 and again Fankhauser had changed styles, this latest band added a more blues influenced sound to Fankhauser’s psychedelic vision, but songs like ‘Blue Jay Blue’ even recall the sweet sounds of Crosby, Stills and Nash showing yet another side to Fankhauser. The first CD ends with five songs billed as just Merrell Fankhauser rather than under a band name. Recorded in Maui Hawaii, the island obviously had a mellowing effect on Fankhauser’s work. At odds with a lot of what was happening musically in 1976/1977 Fankhauser once again went his own way, and produced albums of beauty which were passed up by the general public. With the ever-present violin of Mary Lee more to the fore on these songs this period of Fankhauser’s career really did deserve more attention. Fifteen years are covered on the first disc, and even charting how much Fankhauser had grown musically the whole disc hangs together extremely well and unusually for a compilation the record label really have picked the best. Disc two covers the years 1978 until 2009 and includes a handful of unreleased tracks. There are still moments of genius scattered through the sixteen songs selected for this disc, but where there isn’t a single song on the first CD that you’d want to skip over there are a few songs such as 1985’s ‘Alien Talk’ from the ‘Message to the Universe’ album that haven’t aged well. Strange those songs Fankhauser recorded back in 1963 are more interesting and have stood the test of time better than more recent songs. That said the other song featured from ‘Message to the Universe’, ‘Matthew’s Dream’, which displays a funkier side to Fankhauser, sounds remarkably contemporary. Despite the odd dip in quality like ‘Going South’ from 1988 which is another track that isn’t up to Fankhauser’s usual high standards, and the expected lo-fi sound from some of the unreleased songs there are still enough little gems like ‘Queen MU’ from 1990 which see Fankhauser returning to his dreamy, psychedelic infused songs from the mid sixties to prove that he hasn’t, and probably never will, lose his unique musical vision. Fankhauser by being in a class of one has probably done his career more damage than good. He’s never stood still, never made the same album twice and only very rarely lost his way musically. Despite never really receiving the acclaim he so rightly deserves Fankhauser is still producing music that is as relevant today as the music he made five decades ago was back then. Hopefully this compilation of some of his best work will go some way to introducing this major talent to a wider audience at last.

Track Listing:-
1 Too Many Heartbreaks
2 She's Gone
3 Lila
4 Supermarket
5 Drivin' Sideways On a One Way Street
6 Girl I Am Waiting For You
7 I am Flyin Home
8 The Clouds Went That Way
9 One More Day
10 The Land Of MU
11 Blue Jay Blue
12 On Our Way To Hana
13 Garden in The Rain
14 Make a joyful Noise
15 Dharmic Connection
16 Some of Them Escaped it All
17 Calling From a Star
18 Haiku Jam
19 Queen Mu
20 Goin' South
21 Flying To Machu Picchu
22 Workin' In The City
23 Who Can You Call?
24 Waterfall
25 Matthew's Dream
26 Alien Talk
27 Tale of Misty Mountain
28 Move to Higher Ground
29 Two Vegetarians
30 Surfin Pismo
31 When Merrell Met Jane
32 Tiki Lounge

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