Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Challengers - Tidal Wavedotdotdot
artworkLike the sleeve says, "rarities, alternate versions, and unissued cuts..." 18 previously non-CD and some never before heard tracks by one of surf music's staple bands. There are some really fine gems here. The Challengers were the first spin-off from Paul Johnson's Belairs. Drummer Richard Delvy and ace piano player Jim Roberts went their own way, with a sound very close to the Belairs in the beginning, before evolving a more reverby approach with some double picking. A major part of the South Bay surf band scene, these guys cut the first surf instro album before any major label signed anyone, and also set the standard of doing lots of covers on surf albums that, in part, made the demise at the hands of the British Invasion possible two years later. These tunes are all in original stereo. The liner notes are from Challenger Randy Nauert, and shed more light on this important band. The forward is by Challenger Ed Fournier.
Picks: Satan's Theme, So What, Ramrod, Sunset Surfing, Bedlam, Moovin' and Groovin', Foot Patter, Man Of Mystery, Mr. Rebel, (Dance With The) Guitar Man, Wild One, Mr. Moto, Let's Go, Dance On, Ross At Sunset, Wonderful Land, Theme From 'The Adventures Of Delvy McNort', Channel 9

Track by Track Review

Satan's Theme dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

It's a funny thing, but this alternate take of "Satan's Theme" is significantly more surfy, with more reverb and much crisper sound. The song is an unremarkable progression, with some double picking, and whistling organ.

So What dotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

This alternate take of "So What," while crisper, is still no more than an R&B instro thing, with organ lead. Not very interesting.

Ramrod dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This alternate take is tuff and spunky. The arrangement is true to the Duane Eddy original, or should I say Al Casey.

Sunset Surfing dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This previously unreleased recording by the Challengers is a song that was also cut by the Surf Riders, a Paul Johnson studio project. This is a melodic track featuring Paul on guitar. It's an infectious typically PJ number, suave and sassy, with the sense of ensemble that only Paul achieved in those heady days of old. The pace is lumbering, but the liquidity of the melody line is very cool.

Bedlam dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This alternate take of this Belairs' tune is so similar to "Beat '65" that it always begs the question of which came first... This is a smooth cover, not quite as suave as the Belairs, but very well done.

Moovin' and Groovin' dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Duane Eddy's tune played with an unnerving use of whammy on the low-E that has a demented edge. Some of Glenn Grey's guitar work here is magnetic.

Foot Patter dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a marvelous version of George Tomsco's infectious tune. In some ways, this is surfier and more suave than the album version. This is early Challengers, well defined, with precise guitar, and a semi-Belairssound. Mid tempo coolness, rhythmic and most enjoyable, well played, with groovy piano.

Man Of Mystery dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This Shadows tune was issued on the Vault compilation "Oldies, Goodies and Woodies," which also contained Manuel and the Renegades. Not only did they cover the Shadows, but they also were more poppy than their contemporaries. This is a solid cover.

Mr. Rebel dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Interesting to hear this cover of Eddie and the Showmen's hit. The playing is solid, and the arrangement is mostly true to the original, but it lacks Eddie's drive and power. Still, it's very listenable.

(Dance With The) Guitar Man dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Duane Eddy hit, undubbed with the chorus. Funny, but this is a much better tune without the girls singin'.

Wild One dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Bobby Rydell's "Wild One," while interesting and melodic in a surf setting, is relatively uninspired. This is previously unreleased.

Mr. Moto dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is very similar to the Belairs album take, and a little more powerful. Glenn Grey's string bending is great, as is Jim Roberts' piano, which finally is front and center. Pure South Bay surf roots. This song is thee transition piece.

Let's Go dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a previously unreleased track. It's a surfy cover of the Routers' hit. The drums are recorded pretty cheesy, and played sloppily as well.

Dance On dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This Shadows standard is well played and is infectious, but more subdued than the album version. Still cuts the mustard.

Ross At Sunset dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Thom Starr's "Ross At Sunset" remains a cool tune. This version is from the Surf's Up album. The tango rhythm track and castanets make this vibrato number unusual and fun, and the sax may be the most inspired part. The drums are good too.

Wonderful Land dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This previously unreleased cover is reverent to the Shadows original, with the addition almost religious organ. Pretty cool.

Theme From 'The Adventures Of Delvy McNort' dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Theme From 'The Adventures Of Delvy McNort'" appeared on the Surf's Up album. The track is pretty jammy.

Channel 9 dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Ed Fournier wrote this wholly infectious surf monster that was dubbed "Channel 9" because of it's use as a theme on LA television channel 9's series "Surf's Up!." This is a must have for any surf collection. It's alternative title is "Hop Scotch." It's highly melodic and rhythmic, much in the "K-39" / "Pipeline" style. This version appeared on the Surf's Up album.