Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Tough Themes - The Del-Fi / Donna Tapes Of Bruce Johnstondotdotdot
artworkThis compilation is a two CD set of the Bruce Johnston sessions for Del-Fi Records from the sixties. Not just his "surf" discs, but also production efforts and unreleased tracks as well. The Surfer's Pajama Party album session band was Bruce Johnston - electric piano / vocals, Don Peake - guitar, Ed Carter - bass, Dave Mario or/either Elliott Ingbar - drums, Steve Douglas or/either John Jones - Sax. Great liner notes from biographer Bryan Thomas and Elliott Kendall, plus an historical forward from Bruce Johnston. Bruce produced little that is actually surf music, most notable his "Jersey Channel Island Part VII," but still his impact on the California sound was undeniable, from his early formative work through his eventual and current involvement with the Beach Boys. Many unreleased gems are found here, some of which are vocals, like the opening track "Mazatlan," which was recorded on December 15, 1962 at Conway Recorders in Hollywood, with vocal work laid down on December 28, 1962 at Radio Recorders, and remained unreleased until the 1998 launch of the Del-Fi Beach Party CD. Also of some interest are the gimmicky "Soupy Shuffle Stomp" (dedicated to the Soupy Sales TV show, "The Original Surfer Stomp," and a rousing frat rock variation on "What'd I Say." Also here are some tracks that Bruce produced, including Ron Holden's "True Love Can Be," which is like a cop to "Love You So." There's also the Pharaohs' "The Tender Touch" and "Heads Up, High Hopes Over You" with Richard Berry singing back-up. They were his backup band.
Picks: Surfer's Delight (Surf Party), Moonshot, The Original Surfer Stomp, Ramrod, Last Night, Surfer's Delight (Surf Party), Mashin' The Popeye, Green Onions, Hide Away, Ed's Number One, John's Number Two, Balboa Blue, San-Ho-Zay, Bruce's Number One, Untitled Instrumental, Teen Talk, The Toughest Theme, The Bend, Rock N' Roll Honky Tonk, Soupy Shuffle Stomp (Instrumental), Mazatlan (Early Instrumental Track)

Track by Track Review


Surfer's Delight (Surf Party) dotdot
Hollywood Surf (Instrumental)

This track is a basic frat party anthemic dance number, sax oriented, R&B flavored, and rhythmic.

Moonshot dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

"Moonshot" in essence the backtrack for "Soupy Shuffle Stomp" with a lead laid over the top. It's energetic and spunky, with excellent electric piano and wholly non-surf guitar. "Moonshot" was also known as "Soupy Shuffle Part 2." Jammin' frat party rock and roll, R&B based riffin' fun.

The Original Surfer Stomp dotdotdot
Surf (Vocal)

This is not the "live" session from the Surfers Pajama Party album. It is also taken from a "hot" 45 master because the tape master is missing. It's the same song, but without the vocal and with some added guitar work, which is many miles from the nearest surf. It is inspired jammin' fun, and it does get you going. The foot stompin' adds the same charm that the Dave Clark Five's "Bits and Pieces" exuded. A tasty bit of relative obscurity.

Ramrod dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

An exercise in "give it a surf name and it's a surf song," and bury the melody so bad it's almost impossible to recognize. Sounds more like a basic R&B frat progression, like "Last Night" too fast, or some other boogie nights space waster. The tape box lists the source as "Sigma Pi (UCLA) Remote" January 6, 1962.

Last Night dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Faster than is natural for this song, and not particularly interesting. A frat standard of the day.

Surfer's Delight (Surf Party) dotdot
Hollywood Surf (Instrumental)

This track is a basic frat party anthemic dance number, sax oriented, R&B flavored, and rhythmic.

Mashin' The Popeye dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Based somewhat on "Lucille," "Mashin' The Popeye" is a longish dance groove (5:01) for fraternity row. Again, it's mostly a jam, and not particularly memorable.

Green Onions dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Oh the sound of that electric piano, and the calls to "mash those potatoes now." Basic, piano instead of organ, and a mechanical trip through hitland. This is the live version from the Surfers Pajama Party album.

Hide Away dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Previously unreleased, this is an outtake from the Surfers Pajama Party recordings. It's not very interesting, and certainly minus all of the soul of Freddie King's original, but it jams hard and rocks the socks off the inebriated frat boys. Every stereotypical Las Vegas "hook" is found here.

Ed's Number One dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Ed Carter wrote "Ed's Number One" a.k.a. "Elephant Walk." It's a slow walking R&B number with surprising soul for this otherwise fairly dispassionate set. It's among the unreleased Surfer's Pajama Party session tracks here. The electric piano is very cool, as is the sassy sax work. Definitely a small combo groove, but not far from many a lesser R&B instro of the day.

John's Number Two dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Sax player John Jones penned this jumpy little R&B number. It's previously unreleased from the Surfer's Pajama Party sessions. It uses James Brown's "Night Train" bass line as a foundation, does have that much spunk, but does cut quite a soulful frat groove. The cheesy guitar licks from "The Original Surfer's Stomp" are a little out of place, but overall, it's a decent track.

Balboa Blue dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Joe Saraceno's classic surf-n-suave instro is delivered with even less soul than the Mar-Kets session produced, though there is a certain charm that comes from the honesty of the recording. Previously unreleased, recorded at a UCLA frat party late in 1962.

San-Ho-Zay dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Another stab at Freddie King, this time with a little more effort and energy. Basic frat rockin' R&B, tight but missing that extra something that sets tracks apart from the pack. This is an outtake from the Surfer's Pajama Party session.

Bruce's Number One dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Bruce Johnston jams on the electric piano, pumping out an R&B frat riff with the style of the Seattle bands of the day, but not the raw power. It is infectious enough, and the audience seems enamored with it. Previously unreleased from the Surfer's Pajama Party session.

Untitled Instrumental dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

This untitled instrumental was cut by Bruce Johnston in 1961, and remained unreleased until this CD. Bruce doesn't remember the title. It's a piano jam, a riff on an R&B framework. It's actually a tight little track in that genre. Not really melodic, and pretty derivative of fifties groove.

Teen Talk dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Bruce Johnston's piano, Bob Keene's studio band, and a raspy R&B groove. It's horn section is too big band, like maybe it was targeted to be like Ernie Freeman, but the extremely nasty sax is so low down and mean that it survives the wannabe label. Pretty cool.

The Toughest Theme dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Whoa, fifties sock hop orchestral nonsense, like "I Love How You Love Me" with an elevator close at hand. Bob Keene's flute is interesting.

The Bend dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

This Bruce Johnston produced track is a slow walkin' R&B number with a derivative sound and little soul, but some tasty piano work.

Rock N' Roll Honky Tonk dotdotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

This is one quirky track, with a nod to Lonnie Donegan and a nod to a wood chopper somewhere. It's a basic R&B riff, but the rhythm created by the drums and choppy organ in sync is most appealing.

Soupy Shuffle Stomp (Instrumental) dotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

Previously unreleased pre-overdub back track, before the guitar and piano solos were added. It demonstrates the pushing of the hi frequencies often employed due to expected loss during duplication with the over dubs mixed. rare, but not interesting.

Mazatlan (Early Instrumental Track) dotdot
Frat Rock (Instrumental)

This is an early unreleased back track. It needs the lead, even if it was a sappy vocal.