Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Cruncher - Schlickao's Surfer Is Backdotdotdot
artworkThis is the new disc from the Cruncher. This CD-R collects some of the more interesting Cruncher tracks, plus some new material. The Cruncher is Herbert Hooke (NPR Records) on all instruments except drums - Berthold Walter and electric piano - Katja Hardewig, on some tracks. Herbert's passion for the trad surf sound drives him to record pristine and reverent covers, arranged like it was 1963 and he was in the studio as a member of the Super Stocks. Well played traditional surf covers, very good listening.
Picks: Surf Beat, Contact, Batman, Theme From "Sheena", Our Favorite Martian, Lonely Boy, Midnight Run, Honky Tonk, Underwater, Black Boots And Bikes, Lonely Seagull, Torture, MovinŐ, Geisterreiter, La Comparsa, Latin'ia, El Aguila (The Eagle), Oceanside, Memphis, Penetration, Ventura, Wild Weekend, Albatross, Misirlou, Back To The Egg

Track by Track Review

Surf Beat dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

If the Super Stocks had done Dick Dale's classic instro, they'd have done it like this. Super chunky, with added glissandoes at the beginnings of the lines in the same places that Jack Marshall used pick slides in his Guitar Ramblers recording. The glissandoes add quite an infectious hook to an otherwise very simple rhythm oriented tune. Mighty original thinking.

Contact dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Cruncher is an ongoing studio project of Herbert Hooke (NPR Records). He plays all guitars, bass, and organ as required, accompanied by Berthold Walter on drums, and Katja Hardewig on electric piano on some tracks. The love of the trad surf sound is clear in these tracks. Some of these covers are arranged exactly as the originals, while others are interpreted to be even more trad than the source recordings, if that's possible. If you want really well played traditional surf covers, some pretty obscure, delivered reverently, then this is right up your alley. Very pleasant listening. Quite true to the original Pyramids single, this version has perfect vibrato and tone, except for the drums, which sound like a drum machine. They are not, of course - it's just an unfortunate recording/mixing effect.

Batman dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the Lee Hazelwood tune, not the Neil Hefty TV theme. It was on the Astronauts' first album. This is pure exacting RCA Hollywood surf sound. The melody is playful, almost childlike.

Theme From "Sheena" dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Slow and sinewy, delicately picked, magically spatial. This is a very melodic track, fluidly smooth, and quite pretty. Great for the back seat jam.

Our Favorite Martian dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Bobby FullerŐs most familiar surf instro, lovingly reproduced with slightly brighter guitar tones. The infectiousness of the melody and chord combination, accented by the octave changes just keeps you hypnotized. This is such a bitchinŐ tune, that itŐs hard to imagine going wrong with it, unless you were Green Day or Michael Jackson.

Lonely Boy dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Made famous by Herb Alpert and his mariachi-based Tijuana Brass, this is a pure surf instro version with long flowing notes, slower than the TJB, faster than the Dream Syndicate. Is this the original title?

Midnight Run dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Again from the Super Stocks songbook (also covered by the Pyramids), this is among the most infectious instro Gary Usher ever wrote (co-written with Richard Burns and Roger Christian). The melody is great, and the rhythm is utterly viral. This arrangement is lock-stock-and-barrel the Super Stocks.

Honky Tonk dotdotdot
Blues (Instrumental)

Bill DoggetŐs bluesy progression oriented hit instro, done a lot like a combo between Susan and the SurfTones and Freddie King. Good blues intro listening.

Underwater dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

the Frogmen, among the earliest guitar-reverb bands, had a minor hit with this tune. It is styled like a late fifties instro, more a riff than a melody, but then many of the early surf instros were too, which is why this has held up so well over time. The performance here is quite solid. The mean sax in the break is cool. Arrangement wise, this is a bit like the Super Stocks might have done it.

Black Boots And Bikes dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This Richie Podolor tune has gone under several names, including this when the Scramblers issued it. The arrangement is quite Super Stocks oriented, or maybe Devons. The rich melody is catchy, and the whammy is slight but effective.

Lonely Seagull dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Slow, swaying, shimmering, and lush. This tune is very pretty. The guitar tone is smooth and fluid, as is the delivery. Perfect for an evening on the beach.

Torture dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

When the Fendermen originally cut this, they used just their two guitars. Here, with bass and drums added, the tune takes on a fuller sound and more power. More to the original point than the myriad of psychobilly covers, this is most reverent. Paul Johnson has many times used this to illustrate why he didnŐt use a bass player in the Belairs until quite late in their career. This is a fine track.

MovinŐ dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

With much more piercing guitar tone than the Astronauts or the Surfaris, this performance of the Lee Hazelwood tune is consistently strong and effective. The drums are more tribal than other versions, and the wetness of the reverb more severe. Cool Track.

Geisterreiter dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is an interesting track, which is actually Stan JonesŐ classic (Ghost) Riders In The Sky, augmented with glissandoes and Diamond Head string swipes, and an almost calliopic organ. Pretty cool track.

La Comparsa dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A silky smooth, almost harpsichord guitar tone, and a shimmer over a moody keyboard, with exotic bongos. Pleasant mood music.

Latin'ia dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Tommy Nuñes and Anthony Hilder wrote this incredibly gorgeous tune, based on Slave Girl and Malegueña, and Tommy recorded it with his band the Sentinals. This arrangement is much like the Jon & the Nightriders arrangement (which came after this). Much more rhythm dependent than the Sentinals, and very interesting. The power of the arrangement carries this off well. Great listening.

El Aguila (The Eagle) dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Lee HazelwoodŐs marvelous song, richly played, wetly effected, and perfectly delivered. The pace is like that of the Astronauts, with the reverb more like the Al Casey version, though not as low down as that. The deliberate and metered delivery give it a studious air.

Oceanside dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another Super Stocks tune, written by Gary Usher and Richard Burns. This is very close to the Capitol sessions in every detail. Catchy and playful.

Memphis dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Chuck Berry goes to the beach. The chord progression is infectiously toyed with, but otherwise, itŐs pretty tame.

Penetration dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The PyramidsŐ one big hit, and a song that really caught the attention of the public. The Cruncher do a very respectful version, with the same kind of rhythmic focus as the Pyramids used. Chunky, and full of damped life. Nice track.

Ventura dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Super Stocks recorded this Gary Usher tune, much as it sounds here. While the tone on the lead is more reverbed (Richie Podolor plugged into the board and used room reverb), this is so close to the overall sound of those sessions, it's frightening.

Wild Weekend dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The RockinŐ RebelsŐ claim to fame, delivered with a nasty sax, and great reverbed guitar. While it doesnŐt break any new ground, it does please admirably. It retains the originalŐs meanness, adds surf roundness, and the morphed middle melody is way cool. great track.

Albatross dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

As Ferenc Dobronyi (Pollo Del Mar) once noted, someone should do Fleetwood MacŐs instrumental Albatross. Well, here Ôtis. The guitar is half way between the blues and the surf, and the rhythm is relentlessly metered. The watery nature of the tune is brought out well here.

Misirlou dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

With an organ carrying the lead melody, this is more Euro, or even Lawrence Welk than surf, at least until the second verse, where the gutty double picked surf guitar comes in. Makes for an interesting blend of easy listening and surf. Quite endearing.

Back To The Egg dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the lone original on the disc. ItŐs a lap steel slider over a sorta carnival-like rhythm pattern. The melody has a similar playfulness to the ImpactsŐ Sea Horse. Images of grass shacks and little children abound.