Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Impacts - Surfin 101dotdotdot
artworkOne of the bands that left a recorded legacy via Del-Fi Records and Norman Knowles production was the Impacts. Their guitarist Merrell Fankhauser went from the Impacts to the Exiles, then migrated to Hawaii and formed Mu. His surf legacy has had a cloud of doubt over it due to his insistence that he wrote "Wipe Out," even though the Impacts' "Wipe Out" bares little resemblance at all to the Surfaris' "Wipe Out." The confusion may have come from the fact that the Original Surfaris covered Merrell's "Wipe Out," and the label showed the band name as the Surfaris. The Impacts were among the very few period bands sporting a lap steel. Their music was sometimes rich and rockin', like with "Wipe Out" and the incredible "Steel Pier." Other tracks were Hawaiian influenced like the little-grass-shack "Sea Horse," which I dearly love. Some of their tracks were slow and moody like "Tears" (perfect for the slow dance with Mary Jane at the prom circa 1963), and still others bordered on anthemic sing-alongs like "Beep Beep," which was probably a fave among the frat boys of '63. OK, so that's who they were. Who are they now? Original Impacts Merrill Fankhauser (guitar), Martin Brown (lap steel), and Joel Rose (sax) are joined by a passing plethora of musicians. This CD hearkens to the source influences of the bands of the Pismo Beach - San Luis Obispo area. It is heavily R&B based, with a readily identifiable sound and textures that characterized the Impacts, the Sentinals, and others of the early sixties. It also has some updated sounds that are more similar to the Impacts' Del-Fi CD. They seem to have retained or regained their chops, recreating much of the coolness of the band back in the sixties.
Picks: Surfin' 101, Grover Beach, Impact Zone, Hazards, Moonlight Interlude, Spanish Seas, Maui Surf Dream, Surfmen From Mu, Lost At Sea, The Dunite Stomp, Hangin' Out, Kanaha, Wave Snake, Poinceanna, Sleep Walk, Avila Blue, Big Surf Drums, Switzerland, Torchula, Kon Tiki

Track by Track Review

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.

Grover Beach dotdotdot
Surf R&B (Instrumental)

This is a pretty long track that begins with engine sounds, a female voice saying "this place is cool - what is it" to which the chorus of band mates shouts "Grover Beach." It is just a heavily R&B based progression, but it has some kind of hook to it that keeps it interesting. Maybe it's the low-down growly sax, or the ominous tones of the backtrack, or maybe the cool lap steel work. I don't know for sure, but I found it to be quite solid, in a leather jacket back ally kind of way.

Impact Zone dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Cool tom-tom action, low down sax, and a simple progression on the guitar - sounds like an R&B number with reverb. Quite alluring.

Hazards dotdotdotdot
Surf R&B Country (Instrumental)

No, you're not watching the umpteenth rerun of the Dukes Of Hazard on TNN. This is a grode Central Coast surf-n-soul number. It moves at a deliberate and moderate tempo, the sax growls ominously, the lap steel cries sweetly, and the overall sound is quite pleasing.

Moonlight Interlude dotdotdot
Hawaiian Surf (Instrumental)

Martin Brown's lap steel gives off an air of Don Ho's Hawaii, of slow dance numbers at the Kaanapali Hilton, of strolls on the beach at Waikiki after dark, of fires on the sands at Waimea. It's quite picturesque, and very pretty.

Spanish Seas dotdotdotdot
Surf R&B (Instrumental)

The Spanish feel of the melody is clear, though the arrangement is more like the Impacts of old. It rolls along, sucks you in, and makes you long for the lights of Madrid. It's a moderately paced number that drips Central Coast soul. The sax is great here, as is the fine lap steel work. This is the best track here for my money.

Maui Surf Dream dotdotdot
Hawaiian Surf (Instrumental)

This is a slow and dreamy track that seems to me to be much to much of an old fart's Hawaiian elevator track. It's quite pretty, but seems very sedate and aged in approach. It's high quality, just too passive for my tastes.

Surfmen From Mu dotdotdot
Playful Surf (Instrumental)

Tasty lap steel work holds this together. It's quite playful, with it's almost laughing lap steel lead over a frolicking backtrack. It dances through your consciousness. It is dramatic, childlike, honest, pretty, and quite enjoyable. A fine track.

Lost At Sea dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Light weight chunka chunka rhythm guitar, twangy chords, and a slowly picked out lead line combine to create a flat water slightly breezy ocean scene, with no land in sight. It's not at the worried stage, but rather at the adventure stage. It is optimistic, lacking the concern the title would suggest. Very pretty.

The Dunite Stomp dotdotdot
Surf R&B (Instrumental)

The song is introduced with "Are You Ready Everybody? Let's Do the Dunite Stomp." This track is not much of a stomp, missing the energetic thump you would expect from days of old, but it is a very nice track. It is a mid tempo number that sports stop-start breaks, a light melody line, and some nice plucky guitar bits. The relentless drum track is the only thing that I found less than interesting.

Hangin' Out dotdotdotdot
Surf R&B (Instrumental)

A slowish and rather smooth number, with a pleasant melody and unity of purpose. The breaks feature fine lap steel work, while the main body of the song finds everyone playing almost the same thing, which usually doesn't work at all for me, but the blend of the sounds of the lap steel, sax, and guitar is like fine vocal harmonies. The balance between them creates a very listenable pallet of aural textures.

Kanaha dotdotdot
Surf MOR (Instrumental)

This track uses the intro to "Surf Rider," but has it's own melody, which is nothing at all like the expected song. The beak is a smoother than smooth harmonious horn bit that's too schmaltzy for me. Otherwise, it's a nice track.

Wave Snake dotdotdot
Surf R&B (Instrumental)

"Church Key" whammy dips accent this track, which is fundamentally a progression, broken up with "Wipe Out" drums, and backed by Central Coast sax and guitar harmonies. There's quite a bit of R&B in this track.

Poinceanna dotdotdot
Surf MOR (Instrumental)

Playful shimmering guitar chords open this very pretty and melodic cover. It is both an MOR track and a very listenable placid surf track.

Sleep Walk dotdotdot
Fifties (Instrumental)

"Church Key" is the basis for this slight variation on that theme. It has a simple progression in lieu of a melody. Historic, but no big deal. I have to wonder about the title, since the term didn't come into common use within the surf culture until the advent of the short board.

Avila Blue dotdotdot
Endless Summer (Instrumental)

Avila Beach visions, tourists, seagulls, bluesy bars, old fishing boats, and rocky cliffs. It's all too Endless Summer for octogenarians.

Big Surf Drums dotdotdot
Surf Drums (Instrumental)

Tom toms and gutty guitar notes relentlessly plop out tribal themes, with lap steel accents. It's super-simple, but intriguing.

Switzerland dotdotdot
Surf Mariachi (Instrumental)

R&B coolness in a club tune sorta way, not unlike the backtrack to the Hombres' "Let It All Hang Out." Swiss influences are added, and that's a nice touch. This Seals & Crofts cover from their days with the Champs has a post mariachi sound. It's a cool groovin' track. No surf, but fun fluid soulin'. It is a previously unreleased track from 1963.

Torchula dotdotdotdot
Latin Surf (Instrumental)

This is a track from the sixties. It is nearly identical to the version of the KFWB Battle Of the Surfing Bands album, which was identified as the Sentinals. It was recorded in 1963. It may have been misidentified on that album, or not.

Kon Tiki dotdotdot
Surf R&B (Instrumental)

A chord progression with tasty accents, but no melody. This track appears on the Myers / Impacts split CD. A rare glimpse into the tracks that Del-Fi left off of the Wipe Out! lp. Rare doesn't always equal great, and the thin sound and real basic progression render this unremarkable. Yet, I find it alluring in a historical sense.