"I was a complete AM radio freak as a kid," says Ben. "I used to listen to WDAS, which was the soul station in Philadelphia, and I'd flip back and forth to the Top 40 stations like WABC in New York which had a real strong signal. I also picked up mid-western stations late at night. I used to lay in my bed and listen to WLS in Chicago, and that was back when there was still local and regional hits."
Ben Vaughn shuts his mouth! Instrumental Stylings is Ben Vaughn's first complete album of instrumentals. Proving that no genre is safe from his magic touch, Ben charges through in his inimitable style, touching down in surf, spaghetti western, French soundtrack, California dragstrip, even a little space age bachelor pad music!
This is Ben's second album for Bar/None following the success of l993's Mono U.S.A. Alongside l6 instrumentals there's also a great vocal track "Stretch Limo" driven by some sick fuzz bass played by Dean Ween of Ween.
After many years of east coast living, Ben Vaughn has headed west like so many before him to check out the glories of working in the music and film industry of La la land. With copies of Instrumental Stylings under his arm he's ready to go to work with the Stones (Sharon and Oliver), Tarrantinos and Stallones. Give this kid a good action film and watch him sonically heighten those cliffhangers!
Instrumental Stylings is also excellent to listen to while watching television with the sound off.
The effect of listening to the new Ben Vaughn album MONO U.S.A. is akin to stumbling across a long lost AM radio station that doesn't know what year it is.. The station exists somewhere in the outer reaches of time and space in a parallel universe where rock 'n' roll is reconfigured and boiled down to it's very essence. Yeah you've heard it before but not quite like this. Not when the deejay, musician, singer and hair tonic salesmen is Ben Vaughn.
Ben Vaughn has been working on MONO U.S.A. for the last four years. It's a labor of loves, an encyclopedia of songs that got away. Ben plucks lost classics from a number of genres. We'll let Brett Milano's liner notes take over from here:
...surf trash, wild rockabilly, pop tear jerkers, long lost country and R&B nuggets. There's a couple of songs that you'll probably recognize, and a bunch that'll make you wonder why you've never heard them before. He says this record proves that there's lots of great songs out there that nobody ever does‹ and he oughta know, having written a few handfuls of such tunes himself.
Most of you already know that Ben's already released four albums' worth of rockin', touching, funny and just plain cool songs on the Restless label, not to mention a more recent CD compilation. You may even know that he also produced soul legend Arthur Alexander's latest (and sadly, last) record for Elektra; that he did some reunion gigs with the original Ben Vaughn combo around Philly during '92-'93; and that he's got a fine stack of new tunes in the can...
But the album you're holding isn't a big musical statement or a major career move. This is a serious fan having serious fun, in between the tours and the official sessions. Instead of relaxing and playing some of his favorite records, he went ahead and remade them himself; at his basement studio in the industry hotspot of Collingswood, NJ. There was no attempt to carbon-copy the originals, or to change them around too much; just to dig up some ace tunes and bring them back alive. He recorded it all in mono, on a 7-track tape machine (that's an 8-track machine with one track broken); and played all the instruments, even the ones he hadn't quite mastered. And sometimes the forces of nature stepped in to help out. Notice that weird noise during the second verse of "Blues on the Ceiling"? That's his house getting zapped by lightning, while the track was being mixed in the wee hours of the morning. Kind of fits the mood, though.
So why record it in mono? Well, why the hell not? It was good enough for Phil Spector and Brian Wilson; and even the latest batch of Motown reissues are going with the punchier mono mixes. Ben himself snuck a mono track, "You're So Young" onto his third album without telling anybody; and I'll bet you didn't know that Springsteen did the same with "She's the One."
Ben remembers being a kid driving down the New Jersey Turnpike and going past the antennae for WMCA-AM "Good Guy" radio. It stood in the marshes of the Meadowlands. A small building with the neon call letters on the side could be seen in the fog. Ben assumed that was where the deejays were spinning the songs that got him stoked. In reality it was just a relay station, but it's that romantic notion of rock 'n' roll music flying up and out of a Jersey swamp that drives this album. MONO U.S.A. is Ben Vaughn's half-remembered/half-imagined AM radio station... coming in loud and clear... coast to coast.