Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Paul Johnson and the Packards - Guitar Heaven / Californiadotdotdotdot
artworkThis CD couples two of Paul Johnson's rare eighties releases in his Christian rock (surf based) vein. Guitar Heaven is a solely Christian rock concept project, where as California combines some of Paul's born again creations with some stellar versions of his classics.
Picks: Armour Of Light, The Magnificat, Pressing In, Joyful Blues, Gird Thy Sword On, Those That Seek Me Early Shall Find Me, Don't Be Too Proud (To Be God's Child), The Lord Is A Light To Me, Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord, He Is Lord, Kamikaze, Escape To Reality, Mr. Moto, Baja, Stand Up For Jesus, Squad Car, Day Tripper, Link Wray Medley [Rumble / Jack The Ripper / Rawhide], Streets Of Gold

Track by Track Review

Armour Of Light dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

Very unsurf, and relatively pompous melody. It's pretty, but not endearing. This seems to be mighty arty or something, just not fun, not interestingly serious, and not memorable. I'm not sure I can delineate why I am put off by this track, but I am.

The Magnificat dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

Upbeat, happy, and melodic. This track sports some pomp and some drama, but not much interest. I found it pleasant and listenable, but not memorable.

Pressing In dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

A light weight bluesy melody, sad and melodramatic, almost self pitying. Like many of the other Christian theme tracks here, it seems to take itself too seriously or something, missing the mark, and not being retained after playing.

Joyful Blues dotdotdot
Blues (Instrumental)

Like the title says, an up tempo, upbeat, celebrative track in a clearly blues vein. It doesn't fit into the surf thing at all.

Gird Thy Sword On dotdotdotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

This is an infectious, if slightly serious surfish instro that transcends the target audience. Not exactly surf, but then it IS Paul Johnson and he was there at the birth of the genre. I like this track a lot, with it's melodic and dramatic nature, pristine guitar sound, and soulful energy. A great track. The grand exception to the rule, this Christian theme track is dramatic and serious, full of pomp and circumstance, but it is very interesting, and heartfelt. It bridges the gap between Paul's spiritual side and his surf roots, and the blend is exceptionally strong. I've played this track many times on Surf's Up. It's melody is simple but very effective, and the frequent changes are masterful. The rising and falling power brings the rising and falling of a swell immediately to mind, which is probably why it works so well.

Those That Seek Me Early Shall Find Me dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

This gentle track floats behind the curtain while you do something else, like a hippy folk art thing. It's pretty and atmospheric, but not meant for center focus.

Don't Be Too Proud (To Be God's Child) dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

Highly rhythmic, infectious melody, and high spirits characterize this track. Paul's enthusiasm for this track is obvious in his performance, and in his writing as well. Very interesting and friendly, and most appealing.

The Lord Is A Light To Me dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

Lightweight, delicately picked, almost acoustic, with a slight Endless Summer tone to it, and a very pretty melody. It's more than a backdrop, but less than a topdown number.

Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

Very chunky, infectious, and melodic. This track is magnetic, with many changes and drama, presented in an energetic and light hearted way. The addition of sax adds color to this number.

He Is Lord dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

A slow backdrop to something else. I had trouble staying with this track, because it seemed so unfocused. It's very pretty, just more like a sequence track for a film than a song.

Kamikaze dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

An updated and spunky version of Paul's (Belairs) early work. It has all the youthful exuberance of the original with the honed skill of the modern day veteran player. Great track. Paul's classic from his days with the Belairs, played furiously and with Paul's modern tone. This tune is mighty direct, rhythmic, and infectious. It's power lies in part in it's adaptability, and in it's very human face.

Escape To Reality dotdotdotdot
Christian Surf (Instrumental)

The best version of this was the mix that appeared first on cassette. This is a dramatic and occasionally pompous song, but it features brilliant melody writing and exceptionally good changes. This is an early Christian theme piece for Paul. It has a ton of changes, and is very artful. It is very friendly and infectious, sports dramatic interludes, and sneaks right into your soul. A great track which straddles the line between Paul's two genre. The break melody is particularly intriguing.

Mr. Moto dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

As you might expect, Paul Johnson can interpret his own work better than anyone. This recut of his first recording and most famous composition is fabulous. As usual, it is rhythmic, driving, and fun. What can be said about Mr. Moto. It's among the first surf instros, it's a monster classic, and it's been covered a million times. No One can interpret Paul's writing like Paul can. This is true the spirit of his 1960 youthful innocence when he wrote it, and it's also immediate. This has more power than his 1960 recording, but no less finesse. Great track.

Baja dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is among the best covers of this classic Astronauts / Lee Hazelwood track. Even the dated eighties snare drum sound does not detract from the spunky punchy performance. It is powerful, arranged uniquely, and totally infectious. It is powerful, delicate, pristine, and beautifully played. Besides the obvious power of the writing, Paul brings his unique and highly talented string wizardry to this tune. His plucking and string bending is so articulate and smooth that is literally floats through you. Beautiful.

Stand Up For Jesus dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

Rhythmic, almost folky-fun, this melodic track sticks with you in a light rock instro way. A fine melody, and an energetic performance.

Squad Car dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Eddie & the Showmen had the hit with this, but it was Paul Johnson who wrote it way back when Eddie was in the Belairs. This is probably the hottest version around... not the best or the most authentic, but the punchiest and hottest mix. Very strong. The police radio calls are marvelous. I've had people call me after hearing this on my show swearing they checked their mirror in panic when they head the siren... The police dispatches are about disturbing the peace, and over laid with a siren that Paul recorded after calling a squad car to the studio. This hot and pumped up interpretation of Paul's 1960 creation is beyond comparison. It is both delicate and precise, and powerful and fast. Eddie & the Showmen may have had the hit with this in 1962, but it is Paul who created it, and it's Paul who best understands the nature of the exquisite interplay between the lead and rhythm guitars.

Day Tripper dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Faster than a speeding Silver Beatle, more powerful than George Martin's back-masker, this really shows how a little imagination can go a long way with a well written tune like this. Immediately identifiable and highly enjoyable.

Link Wray Medley [Rumble / Jack The Ripper / Rawhide] dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Paul Johnson medleyed together several Link Wray classics, including Rumble, Rawhide, and Jack the Ripper.

Rumble (album version): This is quite pure, precisely delivered, and quite nice. It is not as powerful as Link's masterpiece, and more rhythm oriented. It also is sans the raw distortion the the Linkster gave it.

Jack the Ripper Now, this is more like it. Somewhere between what the Insect Surfers have done with this, and what Link intended, this is a screamer with intricate perfection in the lead guitar. Powerful. Rawhide: This is a fast paced, almost manic delivery, fulfilling the promise only hinted at by Link.

Streets Of Gold dotdotdot
Christian Rock (Instrumental)

Moderately interesting melodic track that seems a funny way to close out this CD, more with a whimper than the bang that lead up to it.