Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Challengers - Killer Surfdotdotdot
artworkMid 60s GNP best of compilation repackaged for CD. Most tracks are more on the pop edge of the surf envelope. Richard Delvecchio was in the Belairs before forming the Challengers with fellow Belair Jim Roberts. "Kami Kaze" is the Belairs master. Many tracks are augmented or entirely performed by studio musicians including Paul Johnson, Hal Blaine, and Steve Douglas. These sessions are mostly from the mid sixties GNP Crescendo years. This CD includes many of the Good Guys sessions with Paul Johnson and John Anderson. For those alone, this is a good buy.
Picks: Lanky Bones, Telstar, Duck Waddle, A Taste Of Honey, Kami-Kaze, Pipeline, Scratch, The Work Song, The Wedge, Surf-Ari, Rebel Rouser, Collision Course, Memphis, Camel Back, Penetration, Sidewalk Surfer (R. J. Mike), Tequila, Small Fry, Raunchy, Cruel Sea, Lonely Bull, Mr. Moto, The Man From U. N. C. L. E., Out Of Limits, Wipe Out, Roller Derby, Happy Guitars, Walk, Don't Run, Kicks, K-39

Track by Track Review

Lanky Bones dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the Good Guys version, or very similar. Hal Blaine's drums are spectacular, and the performance is spirited. It also is Paul Johnson's thin guitar, I believe. I like this track a lot, just wish the lead guitar was fuller bodied.

Telstar dotdotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

So, take all the oomph out of Joe Meek's production, replace Clem Catatti's grody evil organ and Tony Meehan's full round guitar of the Tornadoes, and then produce it for the Wal-Mart Radio Network, and... you get the idea. It does sport drumming like Hal Blaine's.

Duck Waddle dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This silly tune is one of those numbers that recalls the grin on Paul Johnson's face when I saw him do this with the Belairs. He relished the silliness of both the song and the title. Happy is the operative term. This is from the Good Guys album, or very similar.

A Taste Of Honey dotdotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

A nonintrusive, sixties soundtrackish version of this hit song. Nothing special.

Kami-Kaze dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is cool. The rhythmic chunka chunka of the rhythm guitar stands out, and drives the tune. The melody is a classic Belairs tune. The arrangement straddles the surf-MOR fence. Chunky, cool, but not hot.

Pipeline dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Hal Blaine's drums, and either a totally different mix or different take of the Triumph records session. This mix is fuller, sports more clarity, and has a different charm. very cool.

Scratch dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Good Guys style version, fast, energetic, and as Paul Johnsonwould want it, especially since he is probably on the session. very nice.

The Work Song dotdotdot
Jazz (Instrumental)

The Baja Marimba band meets Hugo Winterhalter in the ally. Next.

The Wedge dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Good Guys version, maybe remixed slightly. Tough, fast, precise, cool piano, and a rolling backtrack. very good.

Surf-Ari dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another Good Guys track. Not a very interesting melody, but listenable.

Rebel Rouser dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Cool, though sounding rather Memphis studio in the arrangement.

Collision Course dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Good Guysversion? I think so, but with less tremolo on the lead guitar. maybe an alternate take. Anyway, it's quite fine. Infectious, spirited, and it sports Hal Blaine's rolling thunder.

Memphis dotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Uh, yeah. I'm sure this is unnecessary.

Camel Back dotdot
Jazz R&B MOR (Instrumental)

Brass, thickly filled arrangement, funky near-jazz R&B, and, well, uh, next.

Penetration dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A gentle elevator backtrack plinks under a guttural lead guitar. It's interestingly different, but not particularly inspiring.

Sidewalk Surfer (R. J. Mike) dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is one of my favorite tunes, and this is likely the Good Guys recording. This sports a melodic, flowing, infectious melody. Not as hot a performance as I'd like, but very good.

Tequila dotdot
Exotica Mexica (Instrumental)

OK, so it's over done, over imitated, and overplayed. Still, it's a great song. So, why do it so boringly?

Small Fry dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another Good Guystrack, this is highly infectious, energetic, and satisfying. It's a song that's been around for a long time, an old Belairs - Paul Johnson tune. The overall effect is happy danceable rockin' good fun.

Raunchy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Pedestrian cover of Bill Justis' classic.

Cruel Sea dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Among the better covers of this Dakotas (Billy J. Kramer) tune written by Mike Maxfield.

Lonely Bull dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Sluggish and uninspired, this version is pleasant, but has none of the character of the original Herb Alpert or the Dream Syndicate cover.

Mr. Moto dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is very similar to the Belairs master, but in stereo, and a little less intense. Glenn Grey's string bending is unusual. Jim Roberts' piano is mostly lost in the mix. Pure South Bay surf roots. This song is thee transition piece.

The Man From U. N. C. L. E. dotdotdot
Spy (Instrumental)

As you might expect, a cutesy, but so what cover.

Out Of Limits dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A studio outtake, with an unusual arrangement, nice use of the piano, and plinky second guitar. None of the intensity of the Mar-Ketts' original, but it is fun to listen to.

Wipe Out dot
Surf (Instrumental)

Gad zooks, have there not been enough failed covers of this song? Tepid, sluggish, and uninspired.

Roller Derby dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Good Guys slowly pour out this Paul Johnson tune. Melodic, but uninspired.

Happy Guitars dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Thom Starr (Galaxies) wrote this. It's a very nice tune. This version is quite happy, spirited, and very cool. It's another Good Guys session.

Walk, Don't Run dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Unusual arrangement, but nothing that holds up to multiple listenings.

Kicks dotdotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

This is the Paul Revere & the Raidershit. They've definitely entered the we-wanna-be-the-Ventures period. Not very interesting. Where are the Challengers of old?

K-39 dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another session of this fine tune. This is not the hit Challengers, but is from the Good Guys sessions. The drums are hot, and the track rolls right along, but is a lesser track the the original.