Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Hornets - Big Drag Boats USAdotdot
artworkThis album, and the others from the Hornets, show quite a bit of influence from the Memphis studio sound of the Stax-Volt family of labels. It also has some surf elements to it. While I would have guessed that it was cut in Memphis, the LP credits Dave Hassinger with engineering, and he was definitely an LA guy, later ruining the Electric Prunes, the Grateful Dead, and two Rolling Stones albums using way too much chamber reverb on the entire tracks. It is likely, therefor that the musicians are the usual suspects from the same minds that produced the T-Bones. Drag boat engines race from track to track, and the LP sleeve track list is out of order too.
Picks: Roostertail, The Steel Hull, Turbine Hydro, Prop Away, On The Flag, Fleet Flyer, Coral Cruiser, The Big Drag, Drag Champion, Lake Twister, Trophy Boat, Mr. USA

Track by Track Review

Roostertail dotdotdot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

This is a strange tack, with a nearly surfable guitar line and a carnival organ and a soft horn section. It spans the cheese aisle with an air of promise unfulfilled. Interesting in its own way, but not really up to surf credibility.

The Steel Hull dotdotdot
Fuzz (Instrumental)

"The Steel Hull" is almost like a Davie Allan track, with fuzz guitar on the verge of his style, but the rhythm track is pure studio system. Some big whammy adds power and charm to the last verse.

Turbine Hydro dotdot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

Limited to a riff and a promise, "Turbine Hydro" relies on a horn riff for its life. There's not really a melody, and it seems to me like it wants to be the Pastel Six, but doesn't rise to their chemistry and humor.

Prop Away dot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

More fifties studio riff rockin' filler with sax out front and no melody. jammin' and honkin' and completely forgettable.

On The Flag dot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

Low grumbly fuzz bass lead, or is it just tuned down guitar? It's not really important. "On The Flag" is a riff rocker with a fifties studio sax and little else to mark its territory. Only the grumbly guitar sets it apart, and that's not particularly interesting either.

Fleet Flyer dotdotdot
Near Surf (Instrumental)

"Fleet Flyer" is kind of interesting in an almost surf dirge vein. Grumbly low-E guitar, dry and double picked softly, with organ solemnly calling the hearse. In the hands of a real surfband, this could be a cool exercise in moody emotional escape.

Coral Cruiser dotdotdot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

jammin' fifties roots and owing its life to Chuck Berry's "Memphis," this track lacks charm and luster, but does have a thick kind of attraction.

The Big Drag dot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

Heavily influenced by Chuck Berry's "School Days," this track doesn't rise to that level of cool, or any level for that matter. Just a jam hoping for a bus to come by so it can get somewhere.

Drag Champion dotdotdot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

The melody to "Drag Champion" is in some ways like a Paul Johnson or Challengers construction. Way more melodic and well written than most of the tracks here, it could definitely become a surf instro without much trouble. Nice track.

Lake Twister dotdotdotdot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

This is the high point of the whole album. "Lake Twister" sports very low grumbly dry lead guitar, double picked with a post funeral edge, set off from the cool organ. Over the years, this has remained listenable. Dual guitars duet the final verse just before the grumble fades away.

Trophy Boat dotdot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

Nearly a melody, "Trophy Boat" doesn't really rise above studio chatter. The fifties sax and the sound just don't grab me at all.

Mr. USA dotdotdot
Near Klezmer Surf (Instrumental)

"Mr. USA" has a Klezmer charm about it. Likely borrowed from some forgotten classic, it shows a sense of humor and creativity. Grins creep across your mug as you take in this fun track. There is even a double picked section. Pretty darn fun!