Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Big Surfdotdotdotdot
artworkThis is a very solid collection of tracks from the Del-Fi vaults. The question is, why does it sound better when made in the UK by Ace than when made by Del-Fi? Almost all great tracks, splendid essential listening. And priced right too.
Picks: The Centurions - Bullwinkle Part II, Sano, Surfin' At Mazatlan, Body Surfin', Church Key, Vesuvius, Latin'ia, Intoxica, The Impacts - Steel Pier, Impact, Blue Surf, Wipe Out, Fort Lauderdale, Church Key, The Lively Ones - Pipeline, Surf Rider, Scratch, Miserlou, Surf Beat, High Tide, Torquay, Soul Surfer, Rik-A-Tik, Dave Myers and the Surftones - Church Key, Moment Of Truth, The Sentinals - Exotic, The Pipe, Latin'ia, Latin Soul, Tor-Chula, Big Surf, The Surf Mariachis - Baja

Track by Track Review

The Centurions - Bullwinkle Part II dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This unusual track was featured prominently in the cult film Pulp Fiction, which thrust this otherwise little know band into the frontal lobes of the American conscience. The track is oddly structured, and very cool. I like the rawness of the original better, but the sense of ensemble here leaves this to be the over all fave.

The Centurions - Sano dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The title "Sano" was slang for sanitary, as in clean, as in very VERY nice, tastefully done. This is a simple R&B progression emoted from a low-E with a grind, and a sax break to kick. It has an East side car-club feel to it.

The Centurions - Surfin' At Mazatlan dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Surfin' At Mazatlan" is one of their faster more upbeat tracks. It's Spanish influences are obvious, though somewhat mechanical. Bitchin' vintage mean surf.

The Centurions - Body Surfin' dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Minimal two chord double picked mean guitar surf grind. Edge and energetic. Not melodic, but powerful none the less.

The Centurions - Church Key dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

One of the more tepid versions of this Revels classic.

The Centurions - Vesuvius dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

With none of the Spanish feeling of the Sentinals version, this is much more a rocker. It's choppy boppy delivery is very cool.

The Centurions - Latin'ia dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This slow and tentative version of this most gorgeous of all vintage surf tunes is odd at best, with almost painful whammy, and a growly sound. Interesting, but not great.

The Centurions - Intoxica dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Centurions were a mighty tough band, somewhere between the San Luis Obispo R&B sound and LA surf. One of the better versions of this tune. They had such a mean sound.

The Impacts - Steel Pier dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Except for "Sea Horse," this is Merrell Fankhauser's best writing, as evidenced by the number of covers out there. It features a simple melody line with drum breaks and a dark brooding tone in an infectious setting. Very cool.

The Impacts - Impact dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Cool tom-tom action, low down sax, and a simple progression on the guitar - sounds like an R&B number with reverb. Quite alluring.

The Impacts - Blue Surf dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Slow (very slow), melodic, moody and enjoyable. Not terribly remarkable, but worth having in your library. It is in many ways very similar to the Surfaris song of the same name from a year later.

The Impacts - Wipe Out dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The chorded introduction is charming. The guitar progression is the basis for the Surfaris' "Wipe Out." It took me a long time to come to realize/accept this, but it surely is so. There are also differences which are in part the luck of the draw on takes chosen for the release, particularly in the lack of drum breaks. Here is Merrell's timeline and comments about the song.

"The facts are: I wrote a song in 1961 while surfing I called "Kick Out." The [Impacts] sax player laughed at me and said 'You Really Got Wiped Out!' We changed the title from "Kick Out" to "Wipe Out" before we went into the studio Sept. of 62 and recorded 18 tracks, some of which were on The Impacts Del Fi LP and others ended up on compilations. We didn't know anything about contracts or copyrights... Drummer Richard Delvy of the Challengers was watching us record in Ted Brinson's studio in L.A. that day. Producer Tony Hilder told Delvy to go out in the car and get more publishing contracts, and we signed our rights away. We later came back a month or so later and re-recorded "Wipe Out" with drum solos, our original only had one solo. We did 4 different versions, that to my knowledge never came out. Our chord progression was exactly the same as the almost 1 year later Surfaris version. The newer version The Impacts did had my guitar mixed more to the front and was very close to the Surfaris. It's interesting Delvy went on to work with The Surfaris and even played drums on a lot of tracks on their first LP. Also they had a song called "Blue Surf" as The Impacts did that was similar, and our producer Tony Hilder also worked with the Original Surfaris. Its quite a coincidence if it really was?... Our version was copyrighted by Hilder almost a full year before The Surfaris version. If we only had those 4 other takes of "Wipe Out!" Revels Sax man Norm Knowles heard them and there was no doubt in his mind something strange happened."

The Impacts - Fort Lauderdale dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Among the Impacts better tracks. Their recordings were OK, but not great. They canŐt be counted among the seminal bands, but their album was good.

The Impacts - Church Key dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Every one did it, but few matched the Revels' original. This is just so-so.

The Lively Ones - Pipeline dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Probably the best period cover of the Chantays' surf archetype. The dribbling glissando opener is stunningly effective, and the whole track reeks power and speed. A totally great track.

The Lively Ones - Surf Rider dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is what happens when a real surfband covers a Nokie Edwards (Ventures) tune that had no relation to surf as written. In fact, it started life as a Potato concept song called "Spudnik." This is the grand and beautiful song that runs under the ending credits of Pulp Fiction. This is the full length version, not the single edit.

The Lively Ones - Scratch dotdotdotdot
Surf Blues (Instrumental)

No Chicken Bop here. A bluesy number a la Freddie King in a plucky arrangement.

The Lively Ones - Miserlou dotdotdotdot
Spy Surf (Instrumental)

"Miserlou" is match for the Dick Dale version, but a damn fine rendition anyway. This has something magnetic about it, even though it is in some ways light weight.

The Lively Ones - Surf Beat dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a less gutty sound than the Dick Dale original, but a very cool track anyway. The raspy sax break, the muted reverb, and the fine performance all add up to a rousing surf stomp.

The Lively Ones - High Tide dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is one of the most infectious and fiery surf instros anywhere. It flies through a staccato lead line, and a softer break. Very powerful. This is one of my favorite classic surf tracks. (fake stereo)

The Lively Ones - Torquay dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A trad cover of the Fireballs' classic.

The Lively Ones - Soul Surfer dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Wetter tones and thinner sound than the Johnny Fortune original, but it's a good take, with really strong double picked bridges.

The Lively Ones - Rik-A-Tik dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Fireballs's were closer to the surf sound than any other presurf instro band. This tune was quite dry and much less interesting than what these guys did with it. It's just about the happiest surf rave anywhere. An absolute must have classic track.

Dave Myers and the Surftones - Church Key dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Dave produced a unique arrangement of a song that was recorded by a bazillion instro bands, making it his own. I like it better than the original Revels version because of Dave's great double picking throughout matched exactly by his marvelous drummer. One of the better covers of the Revel's classic, and certainly the most surfy under it's original name.

Dave Myers and the Surftones - Moment Of Truth dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Dave's interpretation of the Original Surfaris masterpiece "Moment Of Truth" is nothing short of essential listening. What Dave does with it transforms it from a stomp on demand surf obscuro to a melodic rolling almost entirely new song. The melody has been embellished, and the whole sense of rhythm has been replaced with something so infectious that it is irresistible. The use of tenor sax gives it a near-jazz element that adds to the mystery. This remains among my all-time favorite surf tracks.

The Sentinals - Exotic dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is easily one of the hottest surf instro tracks that doesn't rely totally on double picking, not that there isn't a major slab of it, but the bridges are chorded dramatic power chords before there was such a thing. Completely different than the original Mariachi arrangement, with the horns replaced by the guitar in the lead role. This is among my all time faves. Super powerful, hot playing, fast paced, and wonderful! Tommy Nunes' work here is beyond reproach.

The Sentinals - The Pipe dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

In many ways, this is a sequel to their "Exotic," with the intense double picking and almost cha cha backtrack. It is a little less melodic, for sure, but it is really fiery and powerful.

The Sentinals - Latin'ia dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Easily one of the most beautiful Latin surf instros ever recorded. Tommy Nunes' writing and guitar wizardry were unsurpassed. I'd sure like to hear what he's doing now. This song shimmers. It's been on my top ten surf instro list for 33 years.

The Sentinals - Latin Soul dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Easily the best version of this song, and by far the most infectious Latin rhythm rave of the original surf period. Totally infectious, and very powerful. Tommy Nunes' guitar wizardry is unsurpassed, as always.

The Sentinals - Tor-Chula dotdotdotdot
Soul Surf (Instrumental)

A Latin Laguna Luau party number from the minds of San Luis Obispo or Pismo Beach... I forget. One of their more ethnic numbers, very Latino and very wonderful. This Latin soul jazzy number has been one of my faves for a millennium (almost). It has a really cool soulful feel and great damped barely reverbed guitar. A brilliant arrangement.

The Sentinals - Big Surf dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Great tracks come in many flavors. Here, the Sentinals create an amazingly interesting tune from a few sparse notes and chords, and the imagery of big stormy threatening waves in unmistakable. What a killer track.

The Surf Mariachis - Baja dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the most amazing thing. Originally issued as by the Surf Mariachis, this rendition of the Astronauts' classic hit is slowed way down, and translated into a mariachi format or sorts. Totally infectious.