Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Surf Boxdotdotdot
artworkThis is both a blessing and a curse. It's a three CD set for under twenty dollars, and it's the only released source for live tracks from the Surfer's Paradise show. It's also host to several tracks from the multi-issue Surf Set box, includes some eighties and nineties Joe Saraceno session work under his various sixties monikers (Marketts and Routers), and more than an entire CD of throwaways from various no-name Beach Boys clones, plus vintage surf pop vocals and non-surf pop vocals. A mixed blessing for sure.
Picks: Out Of Limits, No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In), Mr. Mysterioso, Southern Surf, Depth Charge, Bustin' Surfboards, Crystal T., Underwater, Pipeline, Rumble At Newport Beach, K-39, Tally Ho, Mr. Moto, Sleepwalk, Caravan, Surf's Up, Wild Actions

Track by Track Review


Out Of Limits dot
Disco Surf (Instrumental)

Oh my GAWD! What a load of rubbish. There was a day when Joe Saraceno made interesting studio creations using really good studio musicians. This, on the other hand, is just about as bad as it comes. Obviously at the vacuous glitter of the disco, this is just about as shallow as it gets. All of the bite is gone, and so are the great guitars of Vegas brothers. Add to the injury a stupid Theremin and a femme vox mimicking an alien, and you'll do well to hold down your lunch. HORRIBLE.

No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In) dotdotdot
Disco Surf (Instrumental)

Except for the seventies funk dry chop guitar, this is studio dribble as infectious as any commercial backtrack can be. It's the sort of track you love to hate, but find yourself whistling anyway.

Mr. Mysterioso dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This must be live from A Surfers Paradise. It lives up to the usual spirited standards of the buts, and they do pummel. This is a song they've been doing for over a decade, and it remains one of my faves. It's from their more heavily ska influenced period. Totally great infectious must have music. The sound is a little muddy, but not so much that you can't really enjoy this track.

Southern Surf dotdotdot
Country Surf (Instrumental)

Semi tropical slightly country slow and sunny palm tree music. It's a pretty melody, but it isn't particularly memorable. It is quite friendly, that is to say it sneaks in and makes you smile, but I didn't find myself going back to it. I don't mean to imply it isn't a good track, only that I would play it if I had the CD out, but wouldn't go looking for it. The sound is a little muddy. Live at A Surfers Paradise.

Depth Charge dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a point of confusion. Likely also from A Surfers Paradise, but where did the keys come from? John Blair played with the Eliminators, who don't have a keyboard, and it couldn't be the Halibuts, 'cuz the keyboard tone is all wrong. What gives here? Anyway, the sound is very muddy for the band, almost unidentifiable and ambient. John's performance is fine.

Bustin' Surfboards dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Bustin' Surfboards" is one of the most recognizable of the tribal surf instros from the sixties. It's drum dominated raw sound was nothing short of magical when I first heard it on KRLA. This is one of the essential surf instros, a desert island must-have.

Crystal T. dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

The big sound of the new Chantays, this is not their best new original, but it's solid, and the sound is not too muddy here, though the general mix is just all even, with the lead guitar lines often buried or nearly lost. A big guitar modern rock track with not much surf feel.

Underwater dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Frogmen romp with "Underwater." It's very much a surf precursor, and important for that reason. Numerous of their tracks have appeared on various budget comps over the past few years.

Pipeline dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Ventures recorded "Pipeline" with no reverb, and very uneven glissando meter, plus little of the emotional beauty of the Chantays' original classic. It's a flat-pickers rendition, not particularly interesting.

Rumble At Newport Beach dotdot
Fifties Rock (Instrumental)

This is very much rock instro of the melody free progression variety, like so many fifties instros. It has no relationship to surf, other than the presumed title link. It's just a party jam. Mike Gordon wrote "Out Of Limits" for the Mar-Ketts.

K-39 dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"K-39" is one of the best late Surf tracks. It is named after a Surf spot 39 kilometers south of the California-Mexico border. Hal Blaine's drumming is exquisite, and the melody is great. This is a true Surf classic, melodic, powerful, double picked joy!

Tally Ho dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Paul Johnson's great tune played well by the South Bay scene's best Belairs clone, and lead by Paul after his departure from the Belairs when he replaced Thom Starr in this band. It's highly rhythm centered, and relentlessly driving, with a quiet sort of intensity.

Mr. Moto dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is it, their claim to fame, their most familiar song, and the first surf release from May 1961 on Arvee Records. "Mr. Moto" is just about the most influential surf instro ever. "Mr. Moto" came to be a surf classic, and was recorded and released months before Dick Dale's "Let's Go Trippin'," before he opened the Rendezvous Ballroom, and before it was called surf. If you must draw a line in the sand, it must be drawn here. "Mr. Moto" was recorded at Liberty.

Covered by countless others, this song features 15 year olds Paul Johnson and Eddie Bertrand trading guitar parts in their trademark style on a prototypical PJ writing masterpiece. Jim Roberts' piano work is stunningly perfect for this song. A historical absolutely must have!

Sleepwalk dotdotdot
Fifties Lap Steel (Instrumental)

Another Surfers Paradise track, with a lush lap steel and lots of audience talking. The playing is sweet and very Santo & Johnny like. It's a classic. It's not original in arrangement or sound, not even very different from the original, so it's mostly dismissible.

Caravan dotdot
Disco Surf (Instrumental)

More dance floor targeted studio nonsense. This is flimsy keyboard disco mung. Hold your ears, lest you wanna return your lunch.

Surf's Up dotdot
Eighties Progression (Instrumental)

This mostly instro track is an eighties progression thing, with non of the charm of the Beans or other such tracks. It's a backtrack with no melody and no focus.

Wild Actions dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A simple progression melody line, and a more rock instro than surf instro sound, much like some of the Pacific Northwest tracks of old. Not very interesting, but energetic and somewhat chunky.