Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Challengers - The Man From U.N.C.L.E.dot
artworkRichard Delvy was there, almost at the beginning. "Mr. Moto" shows this off. But as the sixties gave way first to the British Invasion, and then to Psychedelic, the Challengers found themselves out of step with the times. By the time they signed with GNP Crescendo, they were without focus, and seemingly fast becoming an MOR act, destined for the scrap heap of grocery store music networks. This CD compiles 25 tracks from this dismal period, only a few of which merit even a brief listen.
Picks: More, Cast Your Fate To The Wind, A Taste Of Honey, Walk, Don't Run, Only The Young, Work Song, Born Free, Telstar, Stranger On The Shore, Memphis, Lonely Bull, Penetration, Theme From A Summer Place, The 'In' Crowd, Rebel Rouser, Somewhere My Love, Mr. Moto, Alley Cat, Tequila, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Pipeline, Strangers In The Night, Out Of Limits, Raunchy, Wipe Out

Track by Track Review


More dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

The theme from Mondo Cane, played with less flair than the hit Kai Winding version, and a great deal of sterility. A classic example of studio fare.

Cast Your Fate To The Wind dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Sheesh! This coulda been so well surfed up. It's such a rock natural. It's inclusion in the James Gang's "The Bomber" shows just how well it suits the rock format, and with a little reverb... but then, this isn't a surf record, and these ain't the saviors of the surf world. This is just about as emotionless as elevator music gets. Like a bad film score, it requires a visual distraction to work. Vince Guaraldi and others have made this tune shine. Boring

A Taste Of Honey dotdotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

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

Walk, Don't Run dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

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

Only The Young dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Eddie & the Showmen used to do this... They at least used a little edge, a little honesty. This might as well have been Bert Kempfert. Plodding and worthy of the Longs Drugs in store network.

Work Song dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Oscar Brown Jr. and Cannonball Adderley wrote this fine tune. Jim Waller & the Deltas and the Ray Beats, as well as several other surf bands made it shine. The Tijuana Brass brought it to the border. The Challengers laid it to rest.

Born Free dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

I'm so distressed. Even the pompous piano parts are here, like a high school ceremonial piece. It mindlessly replicates the notes, but not the soul. The last nail in the coffin is the bad chorus, and the vocal lines. Never NEVER let an instrumental band sing.

Telstar dot
MOR (Instrumental)

The song's author Joe Meek would roll over in their grave. Where's the flair and guts of the London Tornados? It's merely non-offensive MOR, looking for a shopping cart.

Stranger On The Shore dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

It's always stranger on the shore when the GNP period Challengers take to the studio. This is right in there with Percy Faith and Lawrence Welk. Just slow dance backdrop nonsense.

Memphis dotdot
Country (Instrumental)

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

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.

Penetration dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

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

Theme From A Summer Place dot
MOR (Instrumental)

Without the "parents music" charm of the of Percy Faith, and with a clear lack of feeling, this is just a pedestrian MOR cover. Pass it by and go see Los Straitjackets as they make it shine.

The 'In' Crowd dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Dobie Gray's R&B hit, stripped of it's suave funk, played like a Hollywood movie club soundtrack excerpt, and left for dead by the side of the road. Spunky, but they must have been looking forward to lunch more than playing this. It shows the Hollywood late sixties psychedelic soundtrack tendency to completely miss the point.

Rebel Rouser dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Cool, though sounding rather Memphis studio in the arrangement.

Somewhere My Love dot
MOR (Instrumental)

By now, the band must have all had day jobs, houses in the suburbs, an average 2.3 kids, and socialite wives. This is just plain sad, especially the baritone sax. Yuk!

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.

Alley Cat dotdot
MOR Jazz (Instrumental)

Bent Fabric aka Steve Allen had a hit with this. Richard Delvy added really lame forced laughing and carrying on under the track that gives it a surreal atmosphere. If not for this absurdity, the track would just be like Kenny Burrell's worst soft jazz podunk.

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?

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

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

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.

Strangers In The Night dot
MOR (Instrumental)

Frank Sinatra hit with Bert Kempfert's pop opus about forbidden one night stands, like the old folks pretended didn't happen in their day. maybe it's about a dope deal, or an espionage meeting. But I digress., This is SAD with a capital "S."

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.

Raunchy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Pedestrian cover of Bill Justis' classic.

Wipe Out dot
Surf (Instrumental)

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