Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Beautiful Spring - S/Tdotdotdot
artworkGet ready for one hell of an obscure ride through one of surf music's most bizarre artifacts. What's clear is that these songs are all Chinese pop songs from the sixties,and that these are surf-based interpretations. The arrangements are very similar, with the two sides of the disc being long crude-edit-created medleys. The basic arrangement is surf guitar and organ leads, all heavy bass and drums. But, the most unusual part is the overdubbed barnyard sound effects over the junctions between songs to simulate the sounds of spring. Furthermore, they over compressed the whole thing, much like Joe Meek would have done. What a trip!

John Blair provided track titles via a friend of his who reads Chinese and knew many of the melodies, which turned out to be from popular Chinese culture. I believe this was recorded in the late sixties in China. I recall an album on (perhaps) a Command international label. The date is a guess, but I'm sure it's before 1970. It would be too much to hope that the catalog number 5-66 was the issue date. It's more likely that it's around 1968.

These sides came to me in a most curios way. One night about a decade ago while doing my surf show on KFJC, a woman called to ask if I could possibly get here a cassette of my show because she had a friend in the State Department stationed in Katmandu, and her friend was putting on a beach theme party at the embassy there. I imagined a bunch of tux-suited stuffed shirts with umbrella drinks wondering what was this noise they were being subjected to. It was too much to pass up, so I sent her a couple of airchecks. IN a few months, she called back to say how well the party went and how much they appreciated the tapes.

Days later, a package arrived with a home made bootleg cassette of this album on it, apparently bought in a market in Katmandu. Never was I so well rewarded! This is just about the most amazing and funny thing I've heard in years. I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud listening to anything, let alone a surf instrumental album. And, to boot, this is just about as obscure as it gets. I'm quite sure that the actual source tapes will never be found, and it may also be that we never know the actual artist either.
Picks: Regret On Unreturned Love (Unrequited Love), Tearful Flower, Going Home, Wonderful Years, Dreamt Of You Last Night, Fragile Love, Person Who Steal My Heart, Dream Seeker, Don't Dump Me, Tearful Clothes, Give My Love Back, Scent On The Pillow, Think Of Lover, Because I Love You, The Moon Is Like A Lemon, Three Flowers, Beautiful Spring, Season For Falling In Love, Mean Train, Beautiful World, Me And Coffee, Leave With You, Don't Cry

Track by Track Review

Regret On Unreturned Love (Unrequited Love) dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

Right from the rooster's crow, you know this is going to bring a grin. The melody is simply lovely, and the surf guitar very charming, especially the muted reverb lines. The organ adds a church or mall sound. Very cool!

Tearful Flower dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Tearful Flower" has a moderately paced track with a soulful melody on organ in some verses, and surf guitar in others. The rooster crows between verses sometimes, and the sadness of the melody seems like it's counterbalanced by both the rooster and the reverb.

Going Home dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Going Home" is about a married woman going to her parents' home - a return to the nest. As such, its melody is a bittersweet thing with a touch of safety net about it. The very pretty melody is nicely portrayed on surf guitar and organ.

Wonderful Years dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Wonderful Years" segues right out of "Going Home" with the same backing arrangement and a similar melody. It's a fairly lightweight song with a slight sad edge.

Dreamt Of You Last Night dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

With a bit of a ska feeling, or perhaps more rightly the rhythm to Lee Hazelwood's "Movin'," "Dreamt Of You Last Night" immediately creates a light feeling of happiness. The surf guitar plays lead, with the organ taking that role in the break.

Fragile Love dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

A heavy surf guitar riff opens this track. In many ways, "Fragile Love" is more surf than most here. The coolness of the reverb and the happy-sad melody are perfectly matched. This is very cool!

Person Who Steal My Heart dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Person Who Steal My Heart" translates more correctly to "You Stole My Heart." It's a bit on the sad side, or perhaps more resigned to romantic capture. Pretty enough, with the rooster hard at his call, and some very cool surf guitar.

Dream Seeker dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Dream Seeker" is birthed unceremoniously from "Person Who Stole My Heart," almost as if they are two parts of the same song. However, the melodies are not the same. Like its predecessor, it's a nice number with considerable attraction.

Don't Dump Me dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

While the literal translation of the title is "Don't Dump Me," in the local dialect is means "Don't Let Me Go" or "Don't Break Up With Me." The sentiment of the lyrics seems a bit at odds with the bass-heavy surf and organ, yet it matters not.

Tearful Clothes dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

Opening with a rock riff, this song is melodic and backed by a rock rhythm guitar. The surf lead and organ accompaniment are very nice here. "Tearful Clothes" doesn't translate like crying shoes, but means "Tears On My Clothes."

Give My Love Back dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

The rooster crows once again to herald a new song. "Give My Love Back" ("Return My Love") sports some delightful muted double picked echo delayed reverb drenched guitar playing a delicate melody that's very pleasing.

Scent On The Pillow dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Scent On The Pillow" employs organ primarily in the lead, with some very nice surf guitar backing. It's delicate and yet buxom.

Think Of Lover dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Think Of Lover" or "Missing My Lover" is a sad little melody with a bit of optimism. The bell-like percussion adds a sense of hopefulness to the song. Quite pretty.

Because I Love You dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

Crowing roosters and clucking chickens run amok beneath delicate surf guitar and a hopeful melody. The bells are a sweet touch. "Because I Love You" is playful, sad, and yet looking forward. Maybe it's more about surrender. In any event, it's a very nice track.

The Moon Is Like A Lemon dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

A soulful organ like you would have heard on the mall in front of the piano and organ store fifty years ago carries some lead duties, trading off with the surf guitar. The muted surf guitar passages are really cool! The moon may be a lemon, but the mere fact that it's nighttime doesn't seem to hold back the rooster.

Three Flowers dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

This is a very bass-heavy track. "Three Flowers" sounds like it's influenced by Stax-Volt in a surf vein. It's quite an interesting juxtaposition. It's a fun track with a fluid and engaging lilt.

Beautiful Spring dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

The title track is launched with muted reverb, supported by a funky bass line, and sports cool melody delivered by both surf guitar and organ. "Beautiful Spring" is a fine song that's ripe for a modern surfband treatment.

Season For Falling In Love dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Season For Falling In Love" is much more a light rock anthem with big guitar tendencies than it is a surf instro, despite the use of surf guitar. Fun and a bit flippant.

Mean Train dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Mean Train" would suggest something less light hearted than this, though the melody is a bit sad. Engaging in some ways, adult contemporary in others.

Beautiful World dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

The melody to "Beautiful World" is almost exactly what you'd expect. It could have been a late sixties soul ballad, or a pop-psych wonder were it not from China. Quite a nice melody, and an enchanting arrangement.

Me And Coffee dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

This is perhaps the least Chinese sounding of all the melodies here. "Me And Coffee" could have come out of any of the studio projects of the sixties. The immediacy of the band gives it a sense of genuineness. Quite cool!

Leave With You dotdotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

There's a very nicely written melody here, and a rock combo configuration, augmented by the surf guitar. "Leave With You" is a song with an eye on the future. Despite the rooster, it is all about the romance to come, and its upbeat tempo and energy are very effective.

Don't Cry dotdotdot
Chinese Surf (Instrumental)

"Don't Cry" is a slower song that uses the bells for melody counterpoints very effectively. It's a romantic and groovy way to close out the album.