Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Challengers - On The Move - Surfing Around The Worlddotdotdot
artworkThis CD contains the original album's 10 tracks plus 4 bonus tracks not previously released. This was their we-wanna-be-the-Shadows album, and was a considerable departure from their previous and subsequent style. It is richly recorded, but mostly a side-bar to the surf scene.
Picks: Foot Tapper, On Broadway, Happy Cowboy, The Breeze and I, Hava Nagila, Dance On, Apache, Guitar Tango, Adventures In Paradise, On The Move, Stick Shift, Road Runner, Lead Foot, Rev-Up

Track by Track Review

Foot Tapper dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a fine West Coast variation on the Hank Marvin / Bruce Welch (Shadows) composition. This version is very clean and full bodied. It is lively, and fun. The male chorus of "ahhhh" makes it a bit too commercial for my tastes, but I have always liked it. It's no "K-39," but then what is? melodic mid tempo fun.

On Broadway dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Not only is this very MOR, but the male chorus "On Broadway" action makes it seem more like a backtrack than an instro in it's own right, and seems superfluous to the end product. More guitar and less nowhere break and singing would have helped a lot, especially losing the trumpets.

Happy Cowboy dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

Now, after slamming the commerciality of "On Broadway," it seems out of character to praise this track, but it is a much more interesting track, with Herb Alpert styled mariachi horns and hokey cowboy beat on the wood dowels. I have always liked this track, and I don't know why. It was written by Rolff-Last. I am unaware of an original version, but I'm sure it's out there somewhere.

The Breeze and I dotdotdot
MOR Surf (Instrumental)

A very MOR version of this stellar Ernesto Lecuona composition, complete with Ferranti & Teischer piano plinkery. It is very pretty, and quite sterile. I like it, but it reminds me of a pompous variation on an elevator music theme.

Hava Nagila dotdotdot
Euro Wedding Surf (Instrumental)

This version is very much more traditional than what you have come to expect from a surf band doing this traditional Jewish wedding dance number. The use of echoplex adds a more European feel to it.

Dance On dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This standard made into a household word in the UK by the Shadows is well played and is infectious. A fave from the album.

Apache dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

It's funny to hear the Challengers do this in essentially the Jorgen Ingman arrangement on an album that is not far from being a Shadows clone collection of songs. It is nowhere as good as the Ingman version, but is quite competent.

Guitar Tango dotdot
MOR Tango (Instrumental)

In their search for an MOR identity, or perhaps more Shadows links, they have stretched to a pretty trad arrangement of a tango, that is neither particularly interesting or infectious.

Adventures In Paradise dotdotdot
MOR Exotica Surf (Instrumental)

A very MOR rendition of the theme from this cult TV show. The piano is priceless, as is the Hawaiianization of the guitar. The show was set in Tahiti, but the theme is a generic island theme song. I have always liked this version, even though it is so cheesy. Only the male chorus "oo-ooh" action detracts from the track. The big cymbal exotics are perfect. Then again, the original soundtrack album is pretty cool too, in it's fifties exotica lounge way.

On The Move dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This is just about the rockin'est tune on the album, and is the only original. I don't much care for the organ break, but the guitar part is infectious.

Stick Shift dotdotdot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

This is a bonus track, not on the original Vault release. It is a cover of the Duals' standard. It utilizes plinky fifties piano, and a thin lead guitar which contrasts to the heavy round tones of the original.

Road Runner dotdotdot
Hot Rod PNW (Instrumental)

This is fairly tepid cover of the Wailers track. It's more of a progression than a melody, and uses dry tones. It's a nice rendition, but has none of the edge or magnetism of the original.

Lead Foot dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is an early version of a song that became "K-39." It is very laid back, uses Richard Delvy's drums instead of the infectious Hal Blaine drumming on the hit single, and is more pristinely played.

Rev-Up dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is odd. It is so gentle compared to the Manuel & the Renegades original, and the melody in not exactly correct either. The double picking is missing, as the super hot tom tom action, replaced by more controlled and deliberate performance, and a very different sax part.