Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Surfin' In The Midwest, Vol. 4dotdotdotdotdot
artworkFinally, after way too many years, another installment of the superb Surfin' In The Midwest series. 18 stompin' rompin' surf obscuros just waiting to tempt your soul. Some of these have been out before, but most are first timers. Excellent!
Picks: Al and the Untouchables - Church Key, The Avanties - Bass Beat, The Blue Echoes - Moon Ride, The Comancheroes - TP, The Count Downs - Way Out, Johnny Ray Gomez and the U-Neeks - Romp Out, Johnny and the Shy Guys - Moon Dawg, The Kan Dells - Cloud Burst, The Monzels - Sharkskin, The Nu Beats - Carlotta, The Precisions - I've Got To Have (Precision Sound), Ronnie Kae and the Saints - Swimming Drums, The Royal Scorpions - Spooky Village, The Star Tones - The Chase, The Titans - Tchaikovsky Rides Again, The Tornados (Wisconsin) - 7-0-7, Scalping Party, The Valiants - Jack The Ripper

Track by Track Review

Al and the Untouchables - Church Key dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Likely inspired by one of the Trashmen's manic versions, Al and the Untouchables play fast and energetically, with silly calls of "church key" and cool cow bell or some such. Originally issued on Hunt 450 in 1964.

The Avanties - Bass Beat dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Not to be mistaken for the Pat & Lolly Vegas project band, these guys were much more Midwest rock band sounding, yet used several surfisms in their songs. This tasteful little instro from '64 has a moody sound and catchy riff that run atop a madman on bass that's double picking and thumping his heart out. The glissandos come from the bass, and are the magical element that really sets this track apart from the crowd. Way cool!

The Blue Echoes - Moon Ride dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This little track is a very basic riff rocker that's catchy, much in the way so many of the small label instros were as surf was dawning. Not a lot of adventure, but solid rhythm and coolness.

The Comancheroes - TP dotdotdotdot
Frat (Instrumental)

The Comancheroes remind me somewhat of Rich Clayton and the Rumbles with dark sax added. Originally released on Teen in 1964, "Romp Out" is a snappy instro very much influenced by its surroundings. Its Midwest credentials are worn proudly as it pumps out a delicate riff with lots of energy. Very cool!

The Count Downs - Way Out dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

With a nod to "Out Of Limits," "Way Out" has an eerie dark sound and simple riff pumped up by an infectious rhythm guitar and bass line, along with very cool drums. Dangerous in a sci-fi sorta way.

Johnny Ray Gomez and the U-Neeks - Romp Out dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Johnny Ray Gomez and the U-Neeks is a seriously frat-rock styled intro originally released on Applause 1000. The guitar style is very Seattle sounding, but the organ is less jazzy than the singles from that vital scene.

Johnny and the Shy Guys - Moon Dawg dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is an almost gentle version of the Gamblers' "Moon Dawg." It illustrates the frequently employed engineer's credo of you play quiet and I make it loud. It's hard to imaging they actually played it this way. The chorus is kind cheesy, but despite all that, it rocks. The original label was Cuca 1145.

The Kan Dells - Cloud Burst dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a masterful single, using lots of changes in the arrangement to keep its simple and very surf oriented riff on top. Behind the bridge plucking, great reverb, catchy string bending, and active drums give "Cloud Burst" a real stormy feeling. Excellent!

The Monzels - Sharkskin dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A great low grindy number featuring raw guitar and glissandoes. It's thrashy and pumped up, and based on a chord riff lead. It employs the "Let's Go" beat in the break. Pretty cool! Originally issued on Prism 1878 in 1964.

The Nu Beats - Carlotta dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Originally issued on Soma 1159, this is a primal cover of "Jezabel," complete with chorus and dark rhythm. Great early surf influences in the lead guitar, while the rest of the track is very much in the early sixties rock vain. Very cool!

The Precisions - I've Got To Have (Precision Sound) dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

Nomad 12552 featured one very unusual instro titled "I've Got To Have (Precision Sound)." While it's pretty jammy, it's offbeat style and melody line, and very busy drums give it a very catchy R&B flavor that immediately gathers you up like the Delegates singles. Very fun.

Ronnie Kae and the Saints - Swimming Drums dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Two-note muted reverb rhythm brings on the surf, and a dark surf melody strikes out for storm-generated gray-green break. Much more dark and surfy than their other singles. The illusive Ronnie Kae and the Saints cut this instro for release on Band Box 362.

The Royal Scorpions - Spooky Village dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Spooky Village" is a basic rocker with that signature Midwest sound. A spacy circular lead riff runs atop a gutty rock backtrack with great drums. The infectiousness factor is high, driven by the energy of the performance. Dark and dangerous in a not too tuff way.

The Star Tones - The Chase dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Echoed guitar driving sideways on the Road Runners' "Quasimodo." So, the question is, which came first? This is a very interesting arrangement. It loses none of the charm, and because it's morphed so much, it has a fresh feel despite it's obvious cover roots. Originally issued on Band Box 354.

The Titans - Tchaikovsky Rides Again dotdotdot
Near Surf (Instrumental)

The marvelous Titans give us their reinterpretation of a classic Tchaikovsky melody. Much less interesting than most of their instros, yet stands up very well among their peers.

The Tornados (Wisconsin) - 7-0-7 dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the b-side of "Scalping Party," and is much less frantic, but also much more durable for my money. More riffy than melodic, but very cool. The circular melody line is just catchy enough, and the muted verses are very surf!

The Tornados (Wisconsin) - Scalping Party dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This song is credited to Gordy Hastreiter, but is really a rompin' reverby reworking of the Wailers' "Shanghaied" is loaded with frat party yelling. This Midwest band has no relationship at all to the Hollywood Tornadoes or the London Tornados. They were on the Cuca label.

The Valiants - Jack The Ripper dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a superb surf obscuro. "Jack The Ripper" (Link Wray and his Raymen) is just so cool in vintage reverb. The infectious delicate surf backtrack supports ringing trembling whammy perfectly. Its wonderful charm and pure surf sound are just too cool!

Originally issued on Ridge 109.