Retro-rocker Ben Vaughn attracted attention for his faithful re-creations of pre-Beatles rock & roll, pop, and roots music, all of which were filtered through his quirky sense of humor. Vaughn began playing around Philadelphia with a band dubbed the Ben Vaughn Combo, after the band broke up, he did a few compilations and went solo.
Instrumental Stylings, 1995, an eclectic album that incorporated bits of his film scores. In fact, a couple of the album cuts were originally written for a 1991 muscle car documentary, Favorite Mopar, and a few others originally appeared in his score to the documentary Wild Girl's Go Go Rama. Sure enough, following the release of the album, he contributed the award-winning theme song to the television series Third Rock from the Sun, and much of the music from Instrumental Stylings was subsequently featured on the show. Vaughn went on to serve as music director for That '70s Show throughout it’s 8 year run.
Instrumental Stylings is not a soundtrack album, but it certainly tackles its fair share of instrumental touchstones. Vaughn shies away from no genre: bone-crunching surf, spaghetti western, drag-strip stompers, country-blues boogie, Italian soundtrack, breezy bossa nova, Tex-Mex cowboy ballads, noir Indian music, and numerous mix-and-match hybrids thereof. One of the most surprising aspects of the album is his ability to evoke a wildly eclectic array of sources and styles and create a palpable mood and atmosphere with each one using virtually the same basic instrumentation. The constants on the album are Vaughn's crazily reverbed guitar and rock-steady drumming. He also douses many of the songs with simplistic organ runs and a bevy of alien effects. Amazingly -- and it is a testament to his estimable skills -- Vaughn manages to make the album sound like a compilation of the finest camp sounds from exploitation flicks of the '50s and '60s. He is as gifted at replicating B-movie styles as Todd Rundgren is at reproducing pop/rock ones. It is virtually impossible to be put off by the retro stance of the music because it exudes such a joyous quality and is crafted so impeccably. It hangs together as a tribute that is often better than the music it is meant to acknowledge.
1. Aqua Blue 2. Gumpstumper 3. Enfermo 4. Pipe Bomb 5. Aldente
6. Battery Acid 7. Heaven Above 8. Toestubber 9. Snake Pit
10. Dreadnaught 11. Hydroplane 12. Tarot Reader 13. Descafeinado
14. Constellation Drive 15. Illusion 16. Stretch Limo
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