Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA The Cornells - Surf Fever
|The Cornells started life as the Tornados, an unfortunate choice given the larger recognition of the Joe Meek produced British band and the Hollywood band of Bustin' Surfboards fame. The band's sound is a kind of hybrid Challengers /and the Pacific Northwest sound, not really very surf oriented, and relatively dry. They sported the trad surf lineup of two guitars, bass, drums, and sax. They didn't really have a unique or readily identifiable sound. The covers are not creatively rearranged nor made their own. The few originals are the best tracks, and are the most surf oriented. To understand the sound, you only need look at the personnel. |
Peter Lewis (future Moby Grape) played in this band. He worshipped Ricky Nelson, preferred Freddie King's R&B instros, jammed with Hail King & the Newports, hung with John Jones of Mike Adams & the Red Jackets, and sat in on Jan & Dean recording sessions at Gold Star with members of the Guilloteens. The band also included Bob Linkletter, son of Art Linkletter and future actor. Hollywood brats in bands, like Rob Reiner of the Leaves or Dino (Martin), Desi (Arnaz) and Billy, usually meant music that was not particularly from the soul of paying dues. In this case, Peter's golden spoon childhood in the hills above Belair was overshadowed by institutionalization and doses of some chemical fix-it for his thoughts as an adolescent, an experience that would certainly drive him to deeper seated emotional performances. Band influences were more towards Johnny and the Hurricanes and Duane Eddy. The First twelve tracks were issued on the original LP, followed by three vault finds. This album was issued on Garrex in the US, and in Canada on Condor as Ten Tons of Wet by the Surf Riders. Some of the tracks were renamed for reasons unknown, and most were remastered from original mono into a processed stereo effect for the Canadian release, giving it a more surf sound. Here's the A to B of it.
|The Cornells||The Surf Riders|
|Agua Caliente||Agja Ole|
|Beachbound||Ten Tons Of Wet|
|Cinnamon Cinder||Ridding (sic) The Curl|
|Lone Star Stomp||Hash Board|
|Stompin' After Five||The Long Ride In|
|Surfer's Stomp||Joe The Hype|
|The Surf Riders here are not the same band that issued the Surf Riders album on Vault. That was a Richard Delvy / Paul Johnson project. This release is historically important, and a great add to the library.|
Picks: Beachbound, Shanghaied, Malibu Surf, Stompin' After Five, Miserlou, Night Train, Surfer Stomp, Caravan, Cinnamon Cinder, Detour, Lone Star Stomp, Aqua Caliente, Mama's Little Baby, Wak-A-Cha
Track by Track Review
Opening with a whammy chord, this is a dry surf number, among the surfiest on the album. It's rhythm and riff orientation, accented by a wailin' sax break is prototypical surf single fare. A nice track. "Beachbound" was also released as "Ten Tons Of Wet" as by the Surf Riders on a Canadian label.
This shows the Pacific Northwest influences on the band quite well, though the sound is a more subdued dry LA sound. The original Wailers tune sports more tension. This version sports a more relaxed jamming feel, with handclaps throughout. The Wailers' "Shanghaied" was also issued as "Surf Time" on the Ten Tons Of Wet LP.
The heavily damped lead guitar without reverb and a softly played backtrack yields a seriously R&B flavored number that only suggests the surf genre. It's a nice tune, but not very surfy. Sure, some of the elements are there, but the overall impression is an R&B band naming their instro surf to cash in. "Malibu Surf" was issued as "Loop" on the Ten Tons Of Wet LP.
Stompin' After Five
This is pure R&B instro jam fare, more tilted towards the Pacific Northwest sound of the Viceroys than the LA sound of surf. It's also not very interesting, being quite derivative. "Stompin' After Five" was called "The Long Ride In" on the Canadian release.
Obligatory surf track, relatively low energy, like a subdued Challengers rendition. Precise enough, just not very intense, and definitely pedestrian as "Miserlou's" go.
Another R&B classic, with none of the flair and energy of James Brown and his Famous Flames or Paul Revere and the Raiders, and minus the style of Rhythm Rockers or the Merced Bluenotes. Basic dance club fare.
Like almost all covers of Joe Saraceno's forties style studio instro, "Surfer's Stomp" is a straight copy, with nothing new happening at all. As issued by the Surf Riders, it was titled "Joe The Hype."
Duke Ellington's famous pre-exotica masterpiece is rearranged into a semi surf, highly rhythmic track that is sax led, and infectious. It's energy carries it. This cool track has a similar feel to the Royal Tones' "Flamingo Express."
This is an instrumentalization of the Pastel Six's hit record dedicated to the club where they were the house band. The only nifty part is the dual horn harmony. Otherwise, it's just high school hop fare. "Cinnamon Cinder" was also released as "Ridding [sic] The Curl" on the Ten Tons of Wet release.
This is the Duane Eddy hit, nicely done, but not arranged in a way that makes it unique.
This is "Deep In The Heart Of Texas," fit into their surf sound category. It was common in those early days to take super familiar standards like "Little Brown Jug," and surf them up. This is actually one of their best tracks, sporting more energy and fun than most. "Lone Star Stomp (Hash Board)" was also released as "Hash Board" on the Ten Tons Of Wet release.
This is so close to "Sloop John B," that it is hard to defend it as the original their producer claims it to be. It is spirited, infectious, and has elements of exotica in it. It's a nice track. "Aqua Caliente" was also titled "Agja Ole" on the Surf Riders' release.
Mama's Little Baby
This is a pretty pedestrian cover of the old standard "Shortnin' Bread." Many surf bands did this better, most notably the Belairs.
This slow light weight number features semi West Coast jazz percussion, and is in the Pastel Six or Round Robin vein, with heavy doses of Chuck Rio and the mariachi sound. It is a very fun track, not surf at all, but a groovy joy to listen to.