Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Merrell Fankhauser - Rockin' and Surfin'dotdotdot
artworkThis new CD from Merrell Fankhauser is on the liter polished side, yet it amplifies really well, and definitely calls to the summer breezes and island escapes. For those unfamiliar with Merrell, his lineage goes right back to the beginning with his Central Coast surfband the Impacts, one of just a few that featured steel guitar. From there, he formed in the Exiles before launching Mu and going off to Hawaii to live the flower child's surf dream. Over the last decade or more, he has recorded and played solo a lot, and with reformed versions of the Impacts. Merrell is in many ways going back to his surf roots on this disc. It's not raging double pick high-wall surf, but it sure is well done and very enjoyable. Perhaps the it is the photo on the tray art that best describes the sound of the music.
Picks: Rockin' and Surfin', Johnny B. Goode, All Along The Watchtower, Wild Gyrations, Beach Boogie, San-Ho-Zay, Sukiyaki, Surfin' 101, La Perouse, Pipeline, Baja, Last Wave At Hanalei

Track by Track Review

Rockin' and Surfin' dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a very smooth surf instro with island whammy chords and a bit of a blues edge. Very much on the lite side, but quite attractive. The sax rocks in the background, adding a bit of grit. Quite a nice track.

Johnny B. Goode dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This is a rousing rock 'n' roll instro arrangement of Chuck Berry's classic romp. Great period piano and solid pumpin' energy.

All Along The Watchtower dotdotdot
Surf Rock (Instrumental)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience arrangement is softened a bit and liquefied, giving it a coastal sound, while still being mostly rock. Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" is a splendid song that Hendrix made cry with emotion in a psychedelic swirl. It sets a soothing mood.

Wild Gyrations dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

"Wild Gyrations" is an instro in the rock-blues tradition, based on a riff and a relentless beat. It's a bit reminiscent of Robbie Dunbar and MOB, but perhaps more fluid.

Beach Boogie dotdotdot
Beach Boogie (Instrumental)

Whammy dipped notes, dry-delay damped rhythm, and keys calling to the beach. The rhythm riff recalls a fifties rocker filtered through the Beach Boys. "Beach Boogie" is just what you might expect from the title.

San-Ho-Zay dotdotdot
Blues (Instrumental)

Freddy King's "San-Ho-Zay" gets slowed down in a way that makes it saucier and pretty groovin'. The guitar and keys carry alternate to verses, while the sax plays a great lead in the break. This is a very nice arrangement.

Sukiyaki dotdotdot
Island (Instrumental)

Merrell Fankhauser rearranged this pop hit from the early sixties into a kind of island vacation sound. "Sukiyaki" is pretty and light hearted without being sappy. Very nice.

Surfin' 101 dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Surfin' 101" is a prime example of Central Coast surf. The Impacts' legendary steel guitar player Martin Brown is featured on this track, perhaps among the last he recorded before his untimely death. Brown's style and finesse were superb. The steel and the chemistry, and the tuff sax make this an interesting track for sure.

La Perouse dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The clean sound and flow of this song are amplified by the island off shore breezes that bring the warm summer air. This is a lite and airy song with a romantic edge, and a sense of easy going life on the coast. "La Perouse" is a very nice track.

Pipeline dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a pretty straightforward version of the Chantays' glorious "Pipeline." On the pristine side, with the keys playing the right accents and the guitar showing reverence for the surf genre. It's among the more subtle versions, and that adds to its charm.

Baja dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Merrell Fankhauser plays Lee Hazelwood's most well known surf instro at a pace and energy that's somewhere between the Al Casey original and the Astronauts hit. Solid and very smooth, the song calls to the surf as it should, Interesting guitar effects on the bridges, and a flute in the break. This is an original arrangement, yet it is also very respectful of the roots.

Last Wave At Hanalei dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Closing out the disc is sultry island song with a slow wah-wah or magic bag effect employed on the guitar. "Last Wave At Hanalei" is a very pretty song which invokes island images. very nice!