Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Fireballs - S/T / Vaquerodotdotdot
artworkThis two-fer combines the first two Fireballs albums. This was the golden period for this band, late fifties/early sixties inventive instrumentalization, and brilliant efficient use of the studio by Norman Petty. Some tracks were really filler on the Vaquero album, and that's too bad. Still, this is a decent CD.
Picks: Torquay, Panic Button, Nearly Sunrise, Bulldog, Foot-Patter (Foot Patter), Kissin', Vaquero, La Raspa, In A Little Spanish Town, Cielito Lindo, La Golondrina, Tequila, The Spur (La Esquela), A Spanish Legend (Leyenda Española), Jesusita En Chihuahua, La Borrachita, A Guy Ranchero, El Rancho Grande

Track by Track Review

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.

Panic Button dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This song has a nifty melody, with an air that is anything but panicked, not even urgent. It's a happy-go-lucky track with a light fluffy arrangement. I has a certain desert soul to it, and is quite recognizable as a Fireballs number.

Nearly Sunrise dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This warble-lead guitar tune is not very interesting. As soon as you get used to the almost calliope sound of the tremolo maxed out, you forget the melody. Novel, but not significant or memorable. Pretty darn MOR as well.

Bulldog dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Bulldog" is rhythmic and infectious, and has a quiet power about it, as did most of the Fireballs / Norman Petty output. All of their sessions are available in various CD forms, from ACE, Sundazed, and others. The Challengers borrowed "Bulldog" for their debut album Surf Beat.

Foot-Patter (Foot Patter) dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a nice chunky tune, with a certain raw edge and delicate energy that contradict the delivery. It's a very infectious melody, and a fine little number. That is why "Foot Patter" has been covered by the Challengers, and others. This track is an essential pre-surf ditty from 1959.

Kissin' dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

A "Panic Button"-like number, more halting, and much more Mexican influenced - like a hat dancer waiting for the canteena to open.

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.

La Raspa dotdotdot
Mexican Southwest (Instrumental)

The Mexican Hat Dance in all it's Southwest splendor. Fun, fluffy, and listenable. Actually better than you would expect of such a number. It shows what you can do with folk material and imagination.

In A Little Spanish Town dotdotdot
Bachelor Pad Tourist (Instrumental)

Piano, foreshadowing the MOR fluff machine to come. Completely unremarkable. Nice whammy use.

Cielito Lindo dotdotdot
Mexican Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This traditional tune is pretty, with a good arrangement, and an infectious rhythm track. Nice number.

La Golondrina dotdotdot
Post Exotica (Instrumental)

Like Martin Denny without the birdcalls or vibes. The guitar is using a tremolo effect, and the performance is quite pedestrian, almost bachelor pad.

Tequila dotdotdot
Pre Surf Mexican (Instrumental)

This tune has been recorded frequently, but seldom this well. It's use of variation in the melody and rhythm track, and substitution of guitar for sax, makes it a good song. It doesn't have the spirit of the Champs, but it does capture the Latin ethic.

The Spur (La Esquela) dotdotdot
Pre Surf Mexican (Instrumental)

This traditional sounding track was penned by Norman Petty. It has an archetypical Mexican folk sound and structure, and uses an almost polka backtrack. It's quite pretty.

A Spanish Legend (Leyenda Española) dotdotdot
Near MOR (Instrumental)

The cheap organ sets a little bar scene for you, and as the track evolves, it embellishes that. It's light, damped, plucky, and melodic, but not very memorable, and has too much of an MOR feel to it.

Jesusita En Chihuahua dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

MOR Billy Joe & the Checkmates - no that's too powerful. Playful, but far to K-mart Radio Network oriented.

La Borrachita dotdotdot
Mai Tai Surf (Instrumental)

Plinky country piano, Polynesian guitar sounds, and a breezy delivery. Jim Reeves on Bora Bora with a parasol in his Mai Tai. The Challengers could have done this, but few others. OK, but not great.

A Guy Ranchero dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This familiar number has been done with so much more pizzas. Here, it languishes in prettyland, where edge is forbidden.

El Rancho Grande dotdot
Korla Pandit Mexican (Instrumental)

Lawrence Welk would yelp up this trad Mexican tune about like this, not wanting to upset the post work-life aged. The Hammond organ just makes it worse, crossing over into that music store in the mall sound, where the totally untalented play a Wurlitzer for the passing would-be Korla Pandits. I don't get this at all.