Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Champs - The Early Singlesdotdotdot
artworkThis is the first volume of singles from one of instrumental rock's luminary bands. Comprehensive and vital.
Picks: Tequila, El Rancho Rock, Chariot Rock, Turnpike, Gone Train, Beatnik, Caramba, The Rattler, Double Eagle Rock, Too Much Tequila, Twenty Thousand Leagues, Red Eye, The Little Matador, Alley Cat, Tough Train, Hokey Pokey, Jumping Bean, Sombrero, Cantina, Panic Button

Track by Track Review

Tequila dotdotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

This is their BIG HIT!. It is a sax based number that was probably the frat house standard, long before "Louie Louie" was. The spoken "Tequila" at the end of the lines has become a standard of Latin party rock. Very infectious.

Train To Nowhere dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Plinky piano groovin' with fifties "wooooo-wop-wop" chorus. It's fun enough, but not particularly interesting. No melody, just a riff.

El Rancho Rock dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

"El Rancho Grande" saxed up like "Tequila" with lotsa fun damped guitar rhythm work, and a honkin' good sax performance.

Midnighter dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

Raw sax R&B based rock, pumpin' a party jam, drivin' the poodle dress crowd nuts. Fine jammin' dance tune from Champs.

Chariot Rock dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

Saucy sax, choked guitar, nifty percussion, and a melody line that speaks in whispers of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" while sportin' fifties jammin' rock sensibilities. There are several musical reference to "Tequila."

Subway dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A raspy sax and echoed drums do a runway sleazer of a blues number. This is so slimy it's diseased!

Turnpike dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

Dave Burgess' suave little number grooves very slowly, with great drums from Gene Alden (credited to Dashiel Crofts). The chords are unusual for rock 'n' roll of the day, and the production crisp and real. Not melodic, but quite catchy nonetheless.

Rockin' Mary dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

Mary Had A Little Lamb chumped into the Champs camp... it's cuter than you think. Hand claps and plinky piano. They even sing the "Mary had a crazy lamb" chorus. Yikes!

Gone Train dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

The Champs' took the classic fifties train theme and jammed on it. A catchy riff and plinky piano, plus great drums and a male chorus singin' "ooh..." here and there. This is not really far from the Monarchs' "Friday Night."

Beatnik dotdotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

Echoed guitar delicato and saucy sax make nice together over a catchy rhythm track. Raw, sensual, and very cool.

Caramba dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

This song features a coy little hook and a catchy Latin beat. Pure Mexican party fun, with roots in mariachi. Great drums as usual.

Moonlight Bay dot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

This is scary... it's very close to the MOR hit, sports bad chorus "wha-wha's" and an indiscreet fifties beat.

Night Train dotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

James Brown's monster becomes a tribal strip joint runway romp. The worst part is the model train whistle. Very fifties.

The Rattler dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

Soft peddled Mexican rock, with acoustic guitar and great drums. It's better than that sounds, but still not what you'd call great. Sax and cool piano.

Sky High dotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

Bouncy post "Tequila" variation on the traditional Mexican tune "Little Linda." It's fun, but doesn't exactly capture the soul.

Double Eagle Rock dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

Fast and fun, "Double Eagle Rock" sports charges this Dave Burgess tune. It's more energy than substance, and it's a lot like a sped up "Moonlight Bay" with extra cool bridges and hand claps.

Too Much Tequila dotdotdot
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)

This is one of several follow ups to their "Tequila." It is a sax based number, slower than it's inspiration, and with more of an "El Rancho Grande" sound to it. The guitar break is acoustic and quite nice.

Twenty Thousand Leagues dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The bubbles open "Twenty Thousand Leagues," which drifts into an echoed tremolo grinder with nasty sax. This is one of the most surf tracks from The Champs. It's quite cool in a slow dark sorta way.

Red Eye dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Yet another rearranging of their hit. It's almost as if a big band would do it, with the exception of Chuck Rio's wailing sax work. Infectious, yet not enduring.

The Little Matador dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A bit of bullfight hornage and a groovy traditionally based structure with laughing sax lines all means a fun track. A grunting narrative about toro completes the picture. This is a simple and gentle glimpse into a time when people could make fun of their own culture without being labels racist or sellout. Very fun track.

Alley Cat dot
Latin R&B Rock (Vocal)

This is alley cat in the fifties sense, and it's a vocal of strange proportions.

Coconut Grove dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

"Coconut Grove" is a slow moving number with the easy side of The Champs in evidence. Its gentle flow is pleasant, but unmemorable.

Tough Train dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Plinking piano and a simple sax riff, accompanied by the same kind of "wop-wop" chorus that Dick Dale used in "Ho-dad Machine," but 4 years earlier. There are melody and structure similarities as well.

The Face dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

"The Face" is a slow piano blues with hand clapping and a smoky sound. Aside from very traditional and cool piano, there's nothing special going on.

Hokey Pokey dotdotdot
Rock (Vocal)

Yup, it's THAT "Hokey Pokey!" Where others might speed it up and drive it harder, The Champs slowed it and made it seem as if they were serious! This is a vocal, but it's so cool in its childlike innocence, that I couldn't resist reviewing it.

Jumping Bean dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This guitar number uses a very simple progression for the melody, an infectious backtrack, and grode sounds. The guitar is in a very low-E range and the whole thing seems to work well.

Sombrero dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A lot like "Tequila," this song uses bongos and is very infectious. I could easily see a surf band making this into a real surf party favorite. Melodic, and totally fun.

Cantina dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This classic number is very tourist Mexican, with great sax and wood block percussion. The melody and playing are playful and very cool. "Cantina" is a splendid little track.

Panic Button dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This has a detective beatnik feel to it. It's catchy and infectious, though mostly unchanging. Fun and spunky.