Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Jon and the Nightriders - Undercoverdotdotdotdotdot
artworkJon and the Nightriders' new release features some of surfdom's best practitioners. Joining John Blair on bass are Sam Bolle (Agent Orange), Pete Curry (Halibuts, Los Straitjackets), and Jeff Nicholson (J&NR), and on drums are Steve Latanation, and Dusty Watson (Slacktone, Agent Orange, Dick Dale, J&NR), and on sax Billy Swanson (Eliminators) and George White. As you have come to expect from Jon and the Nightriders, the music on this CD is splendidly done traditional surf. The title correctly implies an all cover set, but don't let that scare you off. Many of these tunes are obscure or seldom done, and under John's direction, they are rendered with a unique sound and style. Jon and the Nightriders demonstrate that they are the masters of the cover, making each vintage tune their own, while retaining reverence for the original obscuro. Being the ultimate surf instro historian, John Blair kindly provides original single release artist, label and date. An totally excellent surf release.
Picks: Sea-N-Shore, Midnight Run, Hurricane, The Force Of Gravity, Boss, Hot Doggin', Moment Of Truth, XL-3, Crash, They've Landed, Rev Up, Earthquake, Stampede, Swamp Rider

Track by Track Review

Sea-N-Shore dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Sea 'n Shore" is a lovely melody that Jon and the Nightriders have covered before. This performance is big and full throated, more rock than surf tone wise, and showing John Blair's signature drive and finesse.

Midnight Run dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a pristine arrangement of the Super Stocks / Pyramids (Gary Usher-Richard Burns-Roger Christian) classic. The playing is rock solid. Jon and the Nightriders due a very respectful job here, with vintage sound. Exceptionally cool.

Hurricane dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Big waves driven by the big winds, swirling around the rocks, rippin' the beach apart, with surf ridden only by the brave or the stupid. Very infectious and melodic, and as energetic as they come. Intriguing structure and melody from the obscure Conrad and the Hurricanes single.

The Force Of Gravity dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Opening drama yields to a nice but simple progression, "The Force Of Gravity" pounds out a rock solid surf rage. Originally released by the Genteels, this has been in Jon and the Nightriders's set for decades. Excellent!

Boss dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The focus is shifted away from the sax and onto the surf rhythm for a truly "Boss" performance of the Rumblers' classic hit. The Rumblers declared themselves not to be a surf band, but there's not doubt about the surf credentials of this tune in the hands of Jon and the Nightriders.

Hot Doggin' dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A really well reverbed and perfectly damped performance of the Astronauts' killer single. The damped reverb is so glorious that the tune takes on a Pyramids feel from the simply-dripping the liquid springs. Amazing!

Moment Of Truth dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Original Surfaris' signature tune driven in the Jon and the Nightriders signature style and sound. Not just another cover, "Moment Of Truth" solidly pounds the shore with mighty power and glissandoes and Dave Wronski's (Slacktone) string swiping power notes. Totally great!

XL-3 dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Fire below! The Phantoms' "XL-3" blasts off immediately, and relentlessly powers to Aldebaran in a blaze of smoke and flame. Speedy glissandoes force this raging track into hyper drive.

Crash dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Creations' exquisite "Crash" is wonderfully dribbled out through John Blair's liquid playing. A powerful rhythm section supports the lead admirably.

They've Landed dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

I think this is the only cover of this fine 1963 obscuro from the Sorenson Brothers. It's a highly rhythmic riff surf masterpiece. Deceptively simple in structure, "They've Landed" is utterly infectious, as is the original. Magnificent!

Rev Up dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Rev Up" (1963) is one of the great surf instros. Manuel and the Renegades' Piper single pounded loud and often on my turntable back in '63. I first heard it on KRLA 1110 AM Pasadena one night while I was "doing my homework," and have worshipped it's pounding tom toms ever since. Jon and the Nightriders give it a whole new arrangement, less raging and more ringing. They bring out the melody in a more fluid and less pummeling fashion. Billy Swanson (Eliminators) guests on sax. Excellent reworking.

Earthquake dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Only Jon and the Nightriders have covered the ultra rare Marlowe Stewart and the Illusions' "Earthquake" (1964) single. Somewhat different than the original, this is liquid cool with dribbling glissandoes and solid reverb. The reverb crashes are too cool!

Stampede dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This rockabilly standard originally done by the Scarlets has been recorded plenty as of late, but this is the first time it was surfed up, back in '86. Hot bouncy tune.

Swamp Rider dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another extremely rare single from the golden era of the first wave, Tommy Reed and the Runaways' "Swamp Rider" (1962) is warmly updated with reverent sound and fine playing. The more I listen to this song, the more I like it. This tune is surf and country and pure fun.