Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Surf Crazydotdotdotdot
artworkThis is the Japanese issue of the great GNP Crescendo CD. It contains some incredible finds, smashing tracks, and some real dogs. To it's credit, and unlike too many other compilations, these tracks are mostly unavailable elsewhere. Wade through the lesser tracks, the good stuff is right behind. This compilation was provided by Craig Smith, Ph.D. of Remote Sensing Systems, a listener and frequent business traveler to Japan. Thanks Craig.
Picks: Gene and the Esquires - Space Race, Paul Johnson - Tsunami, Dave Myers and the Surftones - Church Key, The Rhythm Kings - Exotic, Blue Soul, The Sentinals - Latin'ia, Tor-Chula, Slacktone - Tidal Wave, The Soul Kings - Pachuko Soul, Swingin' Piper Soul, The Surfaris - Storm Surf, The Surf Mariachis - Watermelon Man, Bob Vaught and the Renegaids - Surfin' Tragedy, Delano Soul Beat, Jim Waller and the Deltas - Intoxica, Soul Beat Pt. II, Let's Go Surfin'

Track by Track Review


Les Brown Jr. - Surfin' And Swingin' dot
Big Band (Instrumental)

No amount of name recognition will change an average Big Band track is not a surf track. The absurd addition of studio fuzz guitar just mocks the thing. Some fuzz, ambiently captured drums, and horns... Big band goes to the beach, but doesn't get tan. If not for the fuzz, "Surfin' and Swingin'" would simply suck.

The Challengers - Water Country dot
Pop (Instrumental)

Big horns and crappy MOR mono sound.... The strings... The flutes... The female la-la vocals... it takes the Challengers to a new low.

Gene and the Esquires - Space Race dotdotdot
Space (Instrumental)

This is a strange track from the studio side of things. It sports spacy electronic noises, some sounds of the surf, and some sounds of the surf, plus a really catchy riff delivered with dry guitar tones. This is the song the Ventures covered on In Space.

Paul Johnson - Tsunami dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

In Paul Johnson's eighties Christian Rock style, based largely on finger picking and Paul's exquisite balance between lead and rhythm, "Tsunami" is a stellar composition that rides at the edge of the genre, and sports fluid feelings and rhythmic pacing. It's also been titled "El Niño."

The Dave Myers Effect - Speed International dotdot
Organ Biker Fuzz (Instrumental)

Hot rod sounds, organ leads, it's all too Hollywood wanna be Jimmy Smith but can only muster Lawrence Welk. I'm a major Dave Myers fan. His Surftones work was killer. His work afterwards in Dave Myers & his Disciples was grand garage punk. So, when I heard that these tracks were finally surfacing, I was stoked. Upon hearing them, well, suffice it to say I'm bummed!

The Dave Myers Effect - Hell's Racers dotdot
Biker Fuzz Organ (Instrumental)

Hot rods cross the soundscape and then a soft fuzz guitar plays a pleasant melody over a ho-hum backtrack. Very disappointing!

The Dave Myers Effect - Silent Screamer dotdot
Biker Fuzz Organ (Instrumental)

Bongos & chunka chunka guitar and a direct rip-off of the Hollywood Persuaders' "Drums A Go Go." So what!

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.

Neil Norman - War Of The Satellites dotdot
Space Ventures (Instrumental)

Neil has a penchant for gimmicky sci-fi soundtrack music. That approach does nothing to save the Ventures' childish arrangement of Danny Hamilton's quirky song.

Neil Norman - Video Space dotdot
Space (Instrumental)

More of Neil Norman's sci-fi soundtrack weirdness. He's an original, and occupies a special place in the annals of music.

The Rhythm Kings - Exotic dotdotdotdotdot
Surf Latin East LA Pachuko Soul (Instrumental)

Among the best of the Pachuko Soul tracks in existence is this gem. Note how different it is from the guitar lead version by the Sentinals.

The Rhythm Kings - Blue Soul dotdotdotdot
Surf Latin East LA Pachuko Soul (Instrumental)

Slow shimmery vibrato guitar in fake stereo. Based on "Am I Blue," it's very beat-club cool. Vincent Bumatay had this knack for writing semi-sad, quasi ominous sax numbers that didn't rely on volume to produce power. What a marvelous slice of Mexican soul.

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 - 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.

Slacktone - Tidal Wave dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Can you spell M-O-N-S-T-E-R? Dave Wronski is a major guitar hero, and there is no better surf drummer than Dusty Watson. This track completely abuses you before it's through, like a 1 second drop down a fifty foot face only to be placed gently on the beach. You should hear 'em do this live!

The Soul Kings - Pachuko Soul dotdotdotdotdot
East LA Latin Mariachi Pachuko Soul Surf (Instrumental)

The cool handclaps, the great mariachi-like horns, the shouts, and the "Watermelon Man" party ethos are infectious and crystal clear. Simply cool party fun. What a sensational groove!

The Soul Kings - Swingin' Piper Soul dotdotdot
Surf Latin East LA Pachuko Soul (Instrumental)

The Pied Piper of Pachuko Soul. Take your standard Surf n Soul arrangement, take away the Mariachi and add a flute and - viola! Herbie Mann goes surfing.

Billy Strange - Hava Tequila dot
Ventures (Instrumental)

His name says it... strange. Studio cheese. If you wanted to rock, but were adrift in a sea of Annunzio Paolo Mantovani and worked for the government, then you got your fix on TV from the likes of Lawrence Welk's occasional "Pipeline" and Billy Strange albums. The only thing wilder you would have done was sneak a donut into the library.

Billy Strange - Walk, Don't Run '64 dotdot
Ventures (Instrumental)

Billy, Billy! When will we learn? The Ventures just barely get honorable mention in surf history, except as an influence. Covering their surfized classic with limp dry guitars is just wimpy.

The Surfaris - Storm Surf dotdotdotdotdot
Surf Folk (Instrumental)

Jim Pash told me "Storm Surf" was recorded in his mother's living room in '64 with Jim Fuller's lead guitar, Jim Pash on electric twelve string, Ken Forssi on bass, and an unknown drummer, maybe Don Murray. I'm not convinced that it isn't a Decca session, though it didn't show up in the vault purge for Varese Sarabande. In any event, Jim came across this tape in a shoe box in his mom's garage. The original name is lost in time. Jim said he did not recall ever playing it live. It was probably the last surf instro they wrote. It is a wonderful, though not entirely developed tune. Thank you GNP for getting this out for all us punters.

The Surf Mariachis - Watermelon Man dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The West Coast jazz influences in surf are no more clear than when the bands did this song. Lots of horns, and a decent arrangement.

Bob Vaught and the Renegaids - Surfin' Tragedy dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another exceptionally grand surf instro. Most of Bob Vaught's work was gutty and raw. This is shiny, shimmery, and exquisite. It ranks pretty close to "Latin'ia" in beautiful surf history. Especially if you've heard Doug Hume's vocal version. A must have.

Bob Vaught and the Renegaids - Delano Soul Beat dotdotdot
Surf Latin Pachuko Soul (Instrumental)

More typical of Bob Vaught's work, this version of the Pachuko Soul number made most familiar by The Original Surfaris not very Latin. Still, Bob's band was cool. I'd really like to see GNP Crescendo reissue their entire album. Incidentally, the album was called Surf Crazy, and used the same font as the artwork of this CD. Come on Neil, get it out with the bonus tracks of his singles.

The Ventures - The Ventures Medley dot
Ventures (Instrumental)

The older they get, the older they sound. Dead, totally weak and tepid. These guys never were very energetic, but this is absolutely octogenarian.

Jim Waller and the Deltas - Intoxica dotdotdotdot
Jazz Surf (Instrumental)

This is a surf instro standard reworked in a club jazz vein. "Intoxica" do it all softly with a unique approach. Unlike the Sundazed CD, his tracks here are in stereo.

Jim Waller and the Deltas - Soul Beat Pt. II dotdotdotdot
Jazz Surf (Instrumental)

This is a sultry jazzy number with a very soulful groove. It drips liquid love and emotional well-being. So cool is that the Ray Beats covered it in a merger with Intoxica on their It's Only A Movie album.

Jim Waller and the Deltas - Let's Go Surfin' dotdotdot
Jazz Surf (Instrumental)

Another of Jim Waller's originals, this is a nice tune with a nonintrusive comfort about it.