Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Beach Party - Garpax Surf and Dragdotdotdotdot
artworkTwenty Six tracks from Gary Paxton's surf and rod days, including some pretty obscure things that have up to now only appeared on bootleg comps. Twelve of the tracks are instros, all of which merit attention. Best of all are demo versions of both sides of the only single from the great San Jose band the Torquays. Excellent liner notes written and researched by Alec Palao. This CD is more than just historical, it's also vital and musically solid. The balance of the CD is well within general expectations for vocal surf from studio systems.
Picks: The Wipeout, Waikiki Rumble, Escondido, Kaha Huna (Goddess Of Surfing), Surf Dance, Countdown, Firewater, Surfin' With Vigor, War Path, Surfers Cry, Warrior, Goofy Guitar

Track by Track Review

The Wipeout dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Spooky almost funky surf, based on an excellent riff and whammy. Despite its simplicity, this really works to keep you hooked. The lead is echoed and maybe also reverbed. The long decay on the lead is really Link Wray like, except not raspy.

Waikiki Rumble dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a very interesting surf tune. Many of the vintage surf bands used pianos, not Farfisas like so many of the new bands. The piano was a rhythmic melody instrument... listen to The Chantays' "Pipeline" or Dick Dale & his Del-tones' "Miserlou." This band clearly had the surf sound down, as is evident in the backing to this piano lead tune. Most unusual and cool. It is not the same tune as Jon & the Nightriders (natch - that was written in the eighties). Vince and the Waikiki Rumblers was fronted by Vince Mutulo from San Jose, who also was involved in the recording of Paul Revere and the Raiders' infectious "Like Long Hair."

Escondido dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a demo version of the great lost singles, recorded in February 1964 by Gary Paxton. Much thinner than the final single issued on Gee Cee Cee Records, it nonetheless is a gem of a period session. The drum beat is significantly different here. "Escondido" is a fine example of just how powerful single picked sustained reverbed melody lines can be. The A part is single picked, and the B part is double picked and damped, played in a playful almost flamenco way. A great find!

Kaha Huna (Goddess Of Surfing) dotdotdot
Near Surf (Instrumental)

This is much less interesting than "Burnin' Rubber," but it does come in just under the wire. Some really nice guitar work and a few intricate filigrees, plus a not quite island feel.

Surf Dance dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A collaboration of Kenny Johnson and Gary Paxton, Kenny and the Ho-Daddies sported organ and bongos, with a raspy sax and a just surfable guitar. Vibrato, some damped dry chords and lines, and a simple but catchy sound.

Countdown dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Just as surf dawned, the Rockets Band had backed vocalists before cutting their own "Countdown." Throbby vibrato, a very simple riff, and a softly tuff sound. It's a pretty cool instro.

Firewater dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Firewater" is a pre-surf instro not unlike many rock instros, with a basic chord progression and a gimmick, in this case whooping Indians and a chorus. This is previously unissued.

Surfin' With Vigor dotdotdot
R&B Surf (Instrumental)

This is an R&B progression, repeatedly repeated with great redundance, played on surf guitar and cheesy organ. The John F. Kennedy impression midstream uttering "Alright, let's try it once with with vee-gah" is very period. Fun, but not of much consequence. Issued as Kenny and the Friends and Kenny and the Sultans.

War Path dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Tribal drums, a cool surf riff, flute, and lots of homage to "Malaguena," this song is pretty cool, and a nice find. The guitar lines are very good, and the mix of exotic sounds very adventurous for its day. Also called "Grand Prix," there seems to be little info on the band, and producer Gary Paxton has no recollection of them at all.

Surfers Cry dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

As with "Escondido," the version of "Surfers Cry" here is a demo cut for Gary Paxton. The second guitar has a great role here with throbbing vibrato, while the lead is not very wet and wonders into some bluesy riffs. The brilliance of the writing still shines through.

Warrior dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

You can almost hear the surf coming 'round the bend in this 1961 single from the Rockets Band. While it's pretty primitive, it's also enticing with its vibrato lead and grodie guitar tome. A raspy sax adds to the mystique. "Warrior" could have been recorded in the late fifties in Anywhere, Minnesota. Quite cool.

Goofy Guitar dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

One of the more surfy tracks from Kenny Johnson's work with Gary Paxton, this track has a sax break and twangy guitar lines. While very simple, "Goofy Guitar" is a catchy riff-based song.