Bonanza! 1960-1969

Bonanza! 1960-1969

by Al Caiola



Al Caiola was a well-known, much-recorded professional guitarist of the '60s. He was a session musician, which led to his featured role as the musical conductor for RCA's album series Living Guitars, and he also had a recording career for United Artists, recording numerous instrumental albums for them between 1960 and 1969, the period covered on Raven's 33-track 2002 collection Bonanza!. The title, of course, comes from Caiola's biggest hit -- his sweeping, widescreen version of the smallscreen Western epic's theme song which, along with his similar version of Elmer Bernstein's "The Magnificent Seven," hit the charts in 1961. These were the only times he charted, but he continued recording prolifically, since he was contractually obligated to deliver 60 tracks to RCA per year. That led to a whole lotta music, and since it was unabashedly commercial -- his rumbly, echoey guitar cut its way through sweet strings and blaring brass, occasionally vocal choruses -- and often arranged around a loose theme (Cleopatra and All That Jazz, Solid Gold Guitar, Tuff Guitar English Style, Tuff Guitar Tijuana Style, etc.), it was often corny and silly and consisted of threadbare material. Even if the songs were slight, the productions are appealingly lush and dated easy instrumental pop that evokes the square but swinging '60s rather effortlessly. And it is the overall sound that counts here -- Caiola is an accomplished guitarist, but this is not music for guitar players, it's mood music for middle of the road listeners. This is music that's tied to its time, which is its appeal, but a little of it does go a long way -- which is also why this 33-track collection, complete with great liner notes by Chuck Miller, is as comprehensive as a collection of Caiola's recordings needs to be. There may be much, much more in the vaults or left only on vinyl, but all that's necessary is a sampling, and this is a well-chosen, expertly assembled sampling, a definitive overview of Caiola's career as a headline recording artist. But do keep in mind that while this is fine mood music, only those listeners who truly have a high tolerance for '60s kitsch will listen to this more than once or twice.

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