Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Strummin' Mental Part Onedotdotdot
artworkThe first of two volumes on CD of rare instro mung and surf. All from vinyl, but when it comes to rare vintage surf, any source is better than none. There are many good surf rants here. This is a must for anyone interested in the lesser known surf gold.
Picks: Echo Express, Exotic, Madness, Tremble, Purple Crackle, Sinner, Curfew, Stampede, Blue Surf, Geronimo, Dracula, Headache, Blast Off, Jungle Fever, Shaften, Going Up, Mexican Party, Heartbeat, Charge, Take Seven, Johnny Sax, Jack The Ripper, Womp Womp, Cotton Pickin', Poison, Thunder Head, Let Down, Mach One, Infinity, Slidin' In, Tale Of A 280 Pound Shoe Salesman, Zebra Shoot

Track by Track Review

Echo Express dotdotdotdot
Primeval Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is one penetrating guitar instro. The lead guitar uses tape echo and a fast decay to create an intense stinging tone. There's little to call a melody, mostly just a riff, but man-o-man is this powerful. It's a natural for a surf treatment.

Exotic dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Bob Vaught's band had a pretty dry sound, but they did some really cool surf stuff, most notably, the best recording of "Surfin' Tragedy." This song started life by the Sentinals in that horn-lead Pachuko soul style of the Soul Kings and the Rhythm Kings... sort of Mariachi R&B. The Sentinals recorded it with Tommy Nunes' guitar lead, and this is a cover of that. It is interesting, but not Bob's best work, or the best version of the song in either style. This is a driving treatment of Bruce Morgan' tune, completely different from the powerful-gorgeous Sentinals treatment. This is raw in your face garage surf.

Madness dotdotdotdot
Primitive Rock (Instrumental)

Most of Bob Vidone's instrumentals are rough rockin' monsters with a raw and primal appeal. masked by the crude recording, they none the less shine through the murk of the indistinct engineering to deliver the essence of early rock 'n' roll the way it was practiced in small town America during the late fifties. "Madness" is not very melodic, but it is pretty darn intense. It was released as by Bob Vidone and the Rhythm Rockers and as by the (Original) Rhythm Rockers.

Tremble dotdotdotdot
Primitive Rock (Instrumental)

Groovin' echoed riff rock from the back rooms of Link Wray's shadow. It is decidedly influenced by the man, but also has a unique sound created by carefully set EchoPlex ins-n-outs which swell to saturation and fall to subtle in time with the drama of the music. Quite inventive.

Purple Crackle dotdot
Primitive Riff Rock (Instrumental)

Riff rock jam based jumpin' party jive, and nothing more. Not a lick of originality, just energy and abandon, though the long vibrato notes in the break are pretty darn cool.

Sinner dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a funny sorta tune, with a simple riff with surf whammy ends, and half the melody from "Wild Goose" slammed together to create a new tune. Quite surfy, with Crossfires styled horns in the break. It's a pretty cool surf obscuro, infectious in it's own right despite it's derivative nature.

Curfew dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a vibrato thrashed primitive intro, with a ton of intensity and real chunk. It is ragged and raw, well defined, and riff based. It could easily be surfed up, but the melody line would need to be enhanced into something memorable, because the progression alone isn't enough.

Stampede dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Here it is, boys and girls. The original thrash out that's been covered by so many of the modern rockabilly / psychobilly bands. It's echoed, reverbed, piano tinkled, and a bit too muddy, but it certainly carries the energy, and it's easy to hear why so many have covered it. High energy, infectious progressions, cool pomp-n-stomp' tribal drums, raw sax, and throbbing bass. It's all here.

Blue Surf dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a raw and intense surf romp. It's not very well cut, but it has plenty of surf feel in the way the Hollywood Tornadoes had it, with echo instead of reverb. Nice track.

Geronimo dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This 1959 track came out of the same Hollywood studio regulars that were the Gamblers and so many others. Nick Venet (before becoming a famous session producer) , Sandy Nelson (while he still had two feet), Bruce Johnston (before joining the Beach Boys to replace David Marks) and Richie Podolor (before being Richie Allen and the Pacific Surfers, the Devons, the Super Stocks, the Ghouls, before engineering for Ed Cobb at the Chocolate Watchband sessions, and before producing Steppenwolf and founding American Recording). It's a perfect upper Midwest buffalo bop styled instro... a basic riff and lots of Indian stereo types... whoops and hollers, gun shots, and dull cries of "Geronimo" Very fun. "Geronimo" was included in the soundtrack to "The Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow."

Dracula dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Great reverb kick opening, ultra reverb guitars, Link Wray "Rumble" lead lines, thundering rhythm guitar... it may be badly recorded, with the bass and drums almost missing, but it's quite tribal and intense. The boys shout it out while they rave up. The reverb kicks are the best part.

Headache dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

I don't know if this is the Midwest Citations. It doesn't sound much like them, though some guitar tones are similar in some spots. It's a super hot surf based jam, with more frat band screaming than it needs. It's hot and way fun. The speedy playing on the lead is quite nice where double picking is employed. The behind the bridge plucking is cool too.

Blast Off dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Surf stompin' guitars and space rockin' rhythms and wailin' sax with racing drums and a walking bass line. It's a progression, a jam with way more spirit than musical content. The energy and flair is enough to carry it.

Jungle Fever dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Raw backwoods rock jam instro, low down and grodie. The early almost fuzz bass guitar is really the coolest part.

Shaften dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Raging two chord filler, relying solely on it's edge and volume to carry it off. Fun, but no particularly interesting, and quite unimaginative musically.

Going Up dot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Just a grodie lo-fi riff with clapping and party shouts.

Mexican Party dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This surf song uses behind the bridge plucking well, like in "Rockin' Cricket." The tune is a progression based on Barrett Strong's "Money" amped up by weird whammy. The exotica percussion is very cool, especially against the behind the bridge picking and bottle neck guitar weirdness. It is both peculiar and interesting, despite such a minimal melody line. There's little "Mexican" about this track.

Heartbeat dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is Midwest style progression, over a relentless backtrack, with spiffy piercing single note slides. It has a strong mean appeal despite it's two chords. Raw dark sky storm surf. "Heartbeat" is infectious in its simplicity and dangerous sound.

Charge dot
Rock (Instrumental)

A really boring progression, shouts of "Charge," and clip-clop wood-bowl horses running. Funny, but useless.

Take Seven dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the B-side to the Novas' incredible single "The Crusher." It's a basic progression, but somehow has long held a place in my heart. It is pure landlocked surf, thrashing and raving with reverb and thunder. The drums are almost lost in the mix, but it all seems to work.

Johnny Sax dotdot
Frat Sax Rock (Instrumental)

The intro says "Johnny Bought A Sax and joined the Thunder Rocks - and then... " Stompin' fifties frat rockin' riff rock with spunk and a wailin' sax.

Jack The Ripper dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a pretty credible nod to Mr. Wray's classic. Definitely not up to Link Wray's level, but a solid cover with almost surf tone via what sounds like some spring reverb and real room reverb at the studio. Quite tasty.

Womp Womp dotdotdot
Sax (Instrumental)

Minimally interesting fifties rockabilly fare. If not for the treatment of the sax lines, it wouldn't count at all, though it does have a cool guitar line.

Cotton Pickin' dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This Texas (?) band delivers a riff with edge and energy. Otherwise, it's indistinguishable from too many of the B-sides of the fifties.

Poison dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This track opens with a rising cymbal brush, enjoys surf tones, and employs a contrast between the slightly reverbed lead and the dry rhythm. Somewhat tribal drums and a walking bass line support the track. It's interesting, but not very remarkable. It is likely not the same band as did "Sounds Of Mecca" and "Bangalore," judging from the tones and sound.

Thunder Head dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A slowly rising snare drum open into a surf pluck fest with reverb kicks and an unusual riff. It's quite an interesting track. The muddiness of the recording hides an effective rhythm track. Closer to a jam than is preferred, yet quite fun and very infectious.

Let Down dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Sounding out of tune, this surf progression is dark and ugly. It is quite unusual as vintage surf goes, with a fifties rock lead line, and a relentless reverbed rhythm. It is very muddy, but primal and innocent. This must have been quite effective on stage at teen centers. Heavily surfed up tune, with basic riffs and mega-reverb rhythm guitar.

Mach One dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Simulated hot rod engine sounds from the guitars, a flying double picked lead that's slightly reverbed, and a simple progression that is made palatable by the changes used to break the sameness. The first verse is double picked, the second lets the sax play lead, the third is single picked, then back through the changes to flying double picked finale. This is a quite a nice find.

Infinity dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Reverb-n-echo fifties progression rock. Not very interesting, just raw and unmusical.

Slidin' In dotdotdot
Surf Rock (Instrumental)

This is another fifties progressional, without benefit of melody. It is nicely delivered, with fine guitar picking, especially the delicate and precise used of played out chords. It has an air of surf, maybe even a flair for the waves, but its heart is in the fifties. It is infectious in a strange sorta way.

Tale Of A 280 Pound Shoe Salesman dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Before Alice Cooper sang about being a "Shoe Salesman," this band was worshipping at the alter of Al Bundy yet to come. It's a dramatic chunk fest of solid rhythms and period trad surf leads in a jam format that doesn't rely much on melody. It's not at all like the more familiar highly melodic tunes like "Pipeline" or "Miserlou," but it has the surf sound and a kinda magnetism that keeps you hooked anyway.

Zebra Shoot dotdotdot
Surf Rock (Instrumental)

Crude jam rock, edgy with glissandoes and wham, but unremarkable. More or less just chord progressions and mindless jam lines.