Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Challengers - New Wavedotdot
artworkBrand new recordings by Richard Delvy's studio band, including long time guitarista Paul Johnson, who wrote "Mr. Moto." As with most earlier Challengers lineups, they provide high quality well crafted melodic instros on the Ventures and Shadows end of the spectrum, important mostly because of brilliant forays like "K-39" and "Channel Nine." A lot of the tracks on this album are mere supermarket surf, melodic and pretty, but almost totally devoid of anything approaching edge or surf. Most tracks are from the pen of Steve Zuckerman, who also arranged this, making it his album really, with Paul Johnson just being the tool, and Richard Delvybeing the bankroll.
Picks: Dead Beach, Tsunami, Escape To Reality, Freeballin', Baja Girl, Nite Wave, Wipe Out, New Wave, Mr. Moto, Longboard, Rincon Sunrise, 19th Street

Track by Track Review

Dead Beach dotdotdot
MOR Surf (Instrumental)

A highly melodic instro, off toward theShadows end of the spectrum, not unlike some of Paul John's work with the later Packards, but more subdued and MOR-ish. Very nice, but not very energetic - at least it doesn't carry through the recording. As for being MOR, it's not as interesting or picturesque as the Aqua velvets often are.

Tsunami dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Paul Johnson wrote this, mostly in his born again Christian instro style, this song is well structured and played (as always with Paul's work). It features his trademark balance between the lead and rhythm. The vibrato is grand. It's not very surfy. This was issued by Paul as a demo on cassette some time back.

Escape To Reality dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The best version of this was the mix that appeared first on cassette. This is a dramatic and occasionally pompous song, but it features brilliant melody writing and exceptionally good changes. This is much more shimmering, with the use of vibrato. It's a highly melodic number, and shows once again just how brilliant a writer Paul Johnson is.

Freeballin' dotdotdot
Supermarket Surf (Instrumental)

A rhythmic and plucky backtrack supports a pleasant melody line. It's quite MOR - supermarket surf.

Baja Girl dotdotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

A light weight bit of tourist fluff, with a nice and simple melody, and a definite Mexican feel, but with no more edge than the Baja Marimba Band. I'll pass.

Nite Wave dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another nice track, with fine delicate vibrato on the lead. It's melody is simple but effective, more so than most of the other Steve Zuckerman writings here. Nice enough, just kinda gentle in that LA '64 studio way.

Wipe Out dot
Surf (Instrumental)

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

New Wave dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

How unremarkable this is... more than supermarket, less than rock or surf.

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.

Longboard dotdotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Yeah, it's pretty, but I can't remember it when it's not on the player, and that is the minimum threshold for success in my book. Sorta melodic, and interesting rhythmically, but forgettable. Quite supermarket.

Rincon Sunrise dotdotdot
MOR Surf (Instrumental)

This is a pretty nice track, with it's shimmering vibrato, and flowing melody line. One of the few Zuckerman tracks here that I found worth a spin. It doesn't actually go anywhere, but it has a pleasant ambiance about it.

19th Street dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a fine Ed Fournier song, his first new song in a millennium. It's very pretty, and well constructed. Paul interprets it well. Ed was the Challengers' second lead guitarist, serving them for many years after the departure of Glenn Grey. It's Ed's guitar that your hear on classics like "K-39" and "Channel Nine."