"Sleep Walk" has been draggin' around my head the last week. It's a beautiful instrumental ballad penned by the Italian-American brother duo of Santo and Johnny Farina. This track, reached number 1 on Billboard's Top 40 back in 1959. When was the last time an instrumental hit was a number one?
A bit about the brothers. The brothers came from Brooklyn and Santo was introduced into playing slide guitar from his father, who after being stationed in Oklahoma, heard the steel guitar and became entranced. He wanted his boys to learn this spooky-weepy instrument. Playing locally, the brothers played weddings, parties, and clubs, before they recorded a couple of demos and ended up signing a song writers contract with a publishing company. This led to them penning the track "Sleep Walk."
And what a dreamy track it is. Santo is an amazing slide guitar player, his slide guitar techniques are far ahead of any rock guitarist at the time. The haunting voice of the the steel guitar is in drenched reverb, with sparse-spacious accompaniments, allowing the beautiful melody to breath easily and gracefully. Santo is an incredibly tasteful player, using the full register of the steel guitar to create very textured weeps, giving the instrument a vocal, human like quality.
A pat on the back must go out to the producer and arranger of this record. The album has beautiful string arrangements that reference the likes of Ravel and Debussy. The dreamy-lethargic harmonies and rhythms of the impressionists, lends itself perfectly to the sounds of Santo. Highlights include, "Tenderly" and "Slave Girl," as well as the rendition of the Duke Ellington classic "Caravan." This whole record plays like a soundtrack, with the "Sleep Walk" theme coming in and out of songs. I wouldn't go as far to say this record is concept record, but the cohesiveness of it all is hard to ignore and is quite striking for a record from 1959; this whole record is like a dream and with the nostalgic sounds found, it is almost like stepping back in time, to a very familiar yet strange era, tapping into the depths of your subconscious. This music has a very strong visual affect!
I highly recommend this dreamy, fun, at times melancholy, record. Fans of kitsch, old American rock, the French impressionists, Hawaiian sounds, guitar heroes, and good music should not miss out on this classic!