Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA The Challengers - California Kicks
|Late in the Challengers' career, this release finds many vocals amid the instros. The once original and innovative band that mixed originals and covers has become a top forty cover band, a definition that would become scorned as the sixties progressed. Showing almost none of their surf roots, the Challengers were moving towards a faceless Billboard sound. |
Picks: Sloop John B., Crestline
Track by Track Review
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?
Arranged a lot like Dick Dale and the Del-tones' version, less the violins and vocal, the Challengers make this into a fluid middle of the road surf number. It's quite nice, with a fine backtrack and guitar lead.
"Crestline" is a fine piece of writing, with a somewhat dangerous melody line and great drums and rhythm. Post surf string bending and an infectious construct. Probably the pick of the LP.
Picked bass and drums open this TV theme. The arrangement borders on MOR.
What Now My Love
Light Rock (Instrumental)
Talk about MOR... "What Now My Love" floats like a filler at a high school dance.
The Knickerbockers' "One Track Mind" is lightened up some, though it does sport some edge. Still, it has no real personality.
Richard Berry's penultimate rock anthem is played out in a sub Paul Revere arrangement, somewhat like the Beau Brummels' version, showing little chemistry or interest.
Post Surf (Instrumental)
This post surf coastal song is more spy than surf, but sports an infectious bridge. It is an interesting blend of soft spy rhythms and fuzz lead. By the time the break comes, it's become too MOR and worn out its welcome.
By the time these guys got to GNP, they'd lost all of their surf authenticity, and had become a Southern California Ventures, covering everyone else with nearly MOR arrangements, and little imagination. They were not quite the style chameleons that the Pacific Northwest boys were, but did produce a lot of flaccid material. This is a pedestrian an uninteresting cover of the spy theme.
Johnny Kidd and the Pirates' rocked my world with "Shakin' All Over," and Chad Allen and the Expressions (Guess Who) rocked it up even more. Then, the Flamin' Groovies power-housed it, and finally the Who anthemized it. The Challengers, on the other hand, whammied out on it.
Great drums and a bouncy post surf rhythm support a somewhat soft dry surf lead. It's OK, but isn't going to burn your monitors up for sure.
Them's incredible "Gloria" has seldom been dumbed down so much. Devoid of the groin fire and angst of Van Morrison's epic teenage anthem and missing the garage edge of the Shadows Of Knight, the Challengers more or less just play the notes.