CD Reviews

WAYNE RIKER: A Beatles Overture From A to Z

The Beatles changed everything. They let folks know that a rock song could have the harmonic structure and sweetness of a Rogers and Hart melody; that pop music could draw on Indian ragas, the classics of Beethoven, or the electronic music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. They intuited that record albums could be more than a collection of songs; that they could be conceived of as a whole work of in their entirety. They advanced the concept of what the lyric content of a song could be. Okay, Bob Dylan had a lot to do with that, but I don’t think Dylan ever got even close to a line like “I am the egg man. They are the egg men. I am the walrus, goo goo ga joob!”

The Beatles also made guitars the coolest instruments on God’s green Earth, influencing a young New Yorker, Wayne Riker, to dedicate himself to playing the instrument. Riker now pays tribute to the Beatles with his recent CD release, A Beatles Overture From A to Z. Starting at A and running through Beatles’ titles alphabetically, Riker offers guitar instrumental tastes of 22 Beatle tunes. The recording is a delight

Riker has often used his talents to spotlight others. And he more than achieves his goal here. As the lovely “Michelle” leads into the cryptic “Norwegian Wood,” or the intense love and longing of  “Julia” gives way the straightforward adolescent rocker “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (To maintain the alphabetical order, Riker cleverly uses the title of the Beatles German release of the record, “Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand”), one is forced to once again realize that the Beatles were like diamonds, a rare and wonderful product of the universe. No other band did so much in such a brief period of time. Remember that their span of fame lasted primarily from 1964 to 1970, six years. Six years.

Fifty-plus years after the Beatles called it quits, we are still in thrall to the music these young men made. To make a fitting guitar tribute to them is not the work of a journeyman. Riker demonstrates his years of experience as he interprets these classics. Few musicians could range from “Penny Lane” and “A Day In the Life” to “Get Back” and “Come Together” as well as the San Diego guitarist does here. For anyone who ever loved the Beatles, this recording should be a real joy. If you bought a copy for your grandparents, they would thank you for it. Recorded at Studio West with Ina Sutton at the control board, the mixing and mastering is tops. I really appreciated the depth of the sound of Riker’s hollow body electric, a Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion model.

In February of 1964 millions of other boys picked up guitars besides Wayne Riker. They grabbed their Gretches, Les Pauls, Telecasters, and other six strings, as they threw out their Brylcreem and let their hair grow long. They bought the amplifiers, too, the little combo amps all the way up to the ear-splitting Marshall stacks.

For most, their initial enthusiasm slipped away, the prized Rickenbacker dropped off at a pawnshop for a few bucks or their garage bands disbanding, being replaced by girlfriends or college classes. But Riker remained serious about music and playing the guitar, even going on to get his degree from the Guitar Institute of Technology. For Wayne Riker the years of magic that commenced moments after Ed Sullivan said, “Ladies and gentlemen… The Beatles!” inspired his livelihood—and for that matter, his life—for the next 55 years. This recording is more than a tribute. It is a heartfelt thank you to John, Paul, George, and Ringo.