OK, so they're not the original studio recordings, which are readily available on a multitude of CDs, But this 37-track (including a pair of medleys) double-CD set is still mightily impressive -- these guys make perfection seem so easy that it's almost a philosophically profound experience. This set is derived from a brace of official live recordings done on tour in Japan between 1990 and 2002, a kind of "best-of" their work from 1990 onward, and the producers have very clearly made their choices on more than technical grounds -- there's expressiveness as well as precision throughout the 105 minutes of Alive Five O
. The result is a best-of the latter-day Ventures -- which, because they they have done little else but perfect the sound they started with at the end of the 1950s, places it only inches (if that), technically and philosophically, from being a best-of the Ventures. Gerry McGee
(lead guitar, bass), Nokie Edwards
(lead guitar, bass), Don Wilson
(rhythm guitar), and Bob Bogle
(bass, lead guitar) are everywhere, and the late Mel Taylor
is the drummer on the 1990-vintage cuts, while his son Leon Taylor
handles the skins on the majority of the tracks. The sound is as flawless as the performances, and the annotation is thorough as well.