Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Fireballs - Blue Fire / Raritiesdotdotdot
artworkThis CD combines the ultra rare Blue Fire album with a collection of singles and alternates. Blue Fire is mostly a sad attempt to move the band into bachelor pads, where edge is forbidden, tweaked syrup reigns, and the blues are destroyed by extracting any semblance of emotion from the music. It's like Lawrence Welk's Delta Blues album - if there was such a thing. The rarities collection contains some dogs as well, but also some essential Fireballs. The over-all ratio of winners to losers is not very high, and almost all the winners are available elsewhere. For die-hard fans only.
Picks: Blue Fire, Blues In The Night, Bluesday, Wang Wang Blues, Birth Of The Blues, Blacksmith Blues, Blue Tinted Blues, Wabash Blues, Big Daddy Blues, Basin Street Blues, Bye Bye Blues, St. Louis Blues, Almost Paradise, Sweet Talk, Sneakers, I Doubt It, Yacky Doo, Clink Clink Classic, Spotnick, Power Packed, Vaquero (Latino), Vaquero, Wicked, Rik-A-Tik, Teekee, Gunshot, Dooop, Tuff-A-Nuff, Joshi, Torquay

Track by Track Review

Blue Fire dotdotdot
Bachelor Pad Fluff (Instrumental)

Moving into easy listening territory doesn't detract from the caliber of the writing. While the arrangement is piano dominated, it's easy to imagine a more Fireballs or surf oriented arrangement being totally bitchin'. It's juts that the arrangement is like Ferrante & Teischer at Floyd Cramer's house with Lawrence Welk as host. Maybe that's an overstatement, but it's sad to hear such a fine piece of writing buried under such a thin arrangement. I picked it for the writing, not the listening.

Blues In The Night dotdot
Bachelor Pad Fluff (Instrumental)

"My Mama Done Told Me" to skip to the next track. Yikes, what a sad track. Piano plinkery, old folks guitar...

Bluesday dotdot
Bachelor Pad Blues (Instrumental)

A slow blues shuffle, completely void of the feelings required to make the blues work.

Wang Wang Blues dotdotdot
Hollywood Hawaiian (Instrumental)

Slowish, super-fluff lightweight pluckage. Not bad, just unremarkable. Funny thing is, when compared to the rest of the tracks here, it almost sounds Hawaiian - sorta... OK, I'll listen again, but...

Birth Of The Blues dotdotdot
Bachelor Pad Fluff (Instrumental)

And the point of this is what? Thick, layered, piano driven, jazz wannabe, bachelor pad backdrop for a failed date with a vixen of uncertain parentage.

Blacksmith Blues dotdotdot
Escalator To Hell (Instrumental)

Whoa - who shoved these guys into the elevator in the bachelor building? Fluff incarnate.

Blue Tinted Blues dotdotdot
Bachelor Pad Fluff (Instrumental)

Slow it down now, do the plink-n-clink with a choppy rhythm and super thin lead guitar. No fear of stopping the elevator with this one.

Wabash Blues dotdotdot
Bachelor Pad Fluff (Instrumental)

When the Viscounts did this, it had guts. Here, it sorta slides off the piano with no particular character or strength. Nicely played, just not particularly memorable.

Big Daddy Blues dotdot
Dinner Blues (Instrumental)

Another dinner blues concoction. It won't interrupt the flow of food from the kitchen with any need to stop and listen. Lightweight and meaningless.

Basin Street Blues dotdotdot
Saloon Blues (Instrumental)

Wasn't New Orleans a jazz Mecca? I mean, wasn't Basin Street a major drag for the jazz clubs, where honest jazz in the true meaning of the word came forth? So, what happened here. You could play this in a cowboy bar without threatening the limited intellect. It sounds more like a saloon jingle from a black and white western than a blues song.

Bye Bye Blues dotdot
Charleston (Instrumental)

We should be so lucky that they'd wave good-bye to the blues, not that you'd guess they ever had the blues. Slow, plinky, piano, almost Ed Sullivan twenties It's A Wonderful Life Charleston... but without the flair.

St. Louis Blues dotdotdot
Ed Sullivan Blues (Instrumental)

Another uninspired performance that would have made Ed Sullivan beg for more, but would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Almost Paradise dotdotdot
Pre Surf MOR (Instrumental)

Hinting at Adventures In Paradise, this is a very pretty track, despite being marred by violins. A proper surf arrangement would certainly help. Splashback currently include "Almost Paradise" in their set, which they fortunately do without the strings.

Sweet Talk dotdotdot
Blues (Instrumental)

A bluesy number that matches a whistled lead line with a dry guitar. It's unusual, but not very interesting, and it has a bit too much bachelor pad stupidity to it for my taste. A bit if Indian riffage in the middle does not save it from the nevermind heap.

Sneakers dotdotdot
Bachelor Pad (Instrumental)

More odd bachelor pad weirdness, not very Fireballs-like, and not very memorable, though it could certainly be surfed up with some hot double picking.

I Doubt It dotdotdot
Bachelor Pad (Instrumental)

More bachelor pad tomfoolery, oozing geek sensibilities and nothing memorable. It belongs in a 1960 Quinn-Martin TV show.

Yacky Doo dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Yacky Doo" suffers from those period "oh-oh" harmonies sung over parts of the song. Too bad it's not the undubbed version here. It is still a nice track, and the "oh oh's" aren't so frequent that it turns you off. The writing is much inspired by "Bulldog" or "Torquay," as is much of their work.

Clink Clink Classic dotdotdot
Pre Surf MOR (Instrumental)

A bit of piano plinkery, some so-so guitar, and an empty elevator do not make for a very interesting track. I suspect that with the deletion of the piano and a more aggressive approach, this could be a rippin' surf track.

Spotnick dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

With a military snare, a marching cadence, and a plucky oldsters party sound, this just doesn't cut it, and certainly doesn't issue forth any space imagery.

Power Packed dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Power Packed" is an unreleased track from 1961. It's the sort of song Paul Johnson would do wonders with. It's rhythmic, funky cool, and fun.

Vaquero (Latino) dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This variation is more Latin influenced in sound than the released version. It is a fine track, which makes better use of its minimal melody, using tasty double picking in the bridge. This seems more appropriate for it's name than the commercial versions, but still false short of the energy expectation the name implies. It's a very good track, well worth a spin.

Vaquero dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This tune is a faster number than many, lighter, more cutesy rhythm, almost polka like. That's not a slam, just a calibration. This is a fine track, which employs a minimal melody, but overcomes that with a very infectious arrangement. I'm not sure why the name, since there's not much Mexican influence here, but hey, that's ok with me. Happiness abounds.

Wicked dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Wicked" must surely be the inspiration for the Challengers "Happy Cowboy." It has the basic air of Mariachi cowboy that the Challengers track relies on. "Wicked" is a previously unreleased (in the US) track from January 1961.

Rik-A-Tik dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is a brilliant bit of writing and playing. The rhythmic nature of the piece is relentless, and the melody is among the happiest of all rock instros. It was covered by the Lively Ones to great affect. This original rendering is much lighter than the Lively Ones version, but it has it's own infectious chunk and playfulness. This track rules.

Teekee dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Tee Kee" is a Torquay-based track that's cool, but just not as cool as Torquay. It is a previously unreleased (in the US) track from January 1961.

Gunshot dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Gunshot" is a cool and typical Fireballs tune. It has a plucky humorous melody line that is infectious and choppy. It has strange highly reverbed hand claps, and a cantina feel to it. Melodic and happy.

Dooop dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Dooop" has a cool melody and brilliant slide accents at the ends of the melody lines. It has such charm and playfulness, that even if you want to hate it, you can't. It's too cute, and too fun. Pluck is the watchword, as the Fireballs deliver this joyous number via damped strings and slithering notes. Great!

Tuff-A-Nuff dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

A light weight funk with a cowboy's sensibility. You can just see a saddletramp shuckin' and jivin' - it's quite a vision, but not much of a track, and certainly not tuff in the vernacular of the day. From March 1961, and previously only issued in Canada on a single.

Joshi dotdotdot
Fifties (Instrumental)

This seems to be not much more than a progression, a boogie in the dark looking for a melody, a spin on the Virtues success, but with Fireballs sensibilities. "Joshi" is cool, but unremarkable.

Torquay dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Torquay" is still a great tune, even 37 years after it was committed to tape. It was borrowed by the Challengers for their debut album Surf Beat, and by the Lively Ones for the Surfin' South Of The Border album. It's primal near-surf sound and rim shot percussion is quintessential Fireballs. The song's power is testified to also in the name being used for numerous bands, including San Jose's circa 1963 surf band the Torquays.