The Austin Chronicle

Record Reviews

Texas Platters

Reviewed by Christopher Gray, February 4, 2000, Music

Three Balls of Fire

Friday Night at Ego's Lounge

Instrumental rock frequently gets painted in hues of Floydian pink and Tortoise-shell gray, when in reality it can be just as catchy and direct as any Christina Aguilera ditty. Leaving ornate noodling to the other Phish in the sea, Austin's Three Balls of Fire offer some 25 tightly-wound wordless selections for this Live at Ego's program, from the Beatles' "Please Please Me" and the Doors' "Light My Fire" to Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and "The Girl From Ipanema." Reverb titans Duane Eddy ("Rebel Rouser") and the Ventures ("Slaughter on 10th Avenue") get their due, as do Sam the Sham on a focused "Wooly Bully" and cinematic pop genius Henry Mancini on both the Pink Panther and Peter Gunn themes. Guitarist Burnin' Mike Vernon surfs his fretboard like the Big Kahuna himself, bassist Vic Gerard and drummer Chris "Stix" Staples coming on as direct and insistent as a collection agency. If it all seems to go by in a blur of runs, scales, and slides, its sturdy melodic foundation keeps the material from being overrun by technicalia. You can whistle any one of these tunes on your way back to the car, which is most likely the reason Three Balls of Fire made this album in the first place.


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