Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Mel-Tones - Surf! Spy! Space!dotdotdotdotdot
artworkIt was a grand day that Surf! Spy! Space! arrived in my mailbox. Los Mel and his stalwart musicnauts, through all of their incarnations, have always been a welcome sight and sound. 19 grand tracks, full of reverb and great arranging, bolstered by excellent playing and real artistry. Superb!
Picks: Wave Runner, Decoder Deluxe, Bull In My China Shop, Quick Pick, Comet Rustler, Polynesian Cowboy, Orbitron, She's Gone Again, Sorrow Bay, Satellite Swing, Thunderbird, Odessa, Blueprint Girl, Dune Buggy, Agent Provocateur, El Matador, Bikini Village, Kava Kava, Bird Lady From Ghost Town

Track by Track Review

Wave Runner dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

This is a very rhythmic track in the surf chunk vein with a mysterious search for surf melody. "Wave Runner" is an infectious track that grabs and keeps you via its splendid muted reverb rhythm and the warmth of the melody. The melody is slightly reminiscent of "Surf Bird" in places.

Decoder Deluxe dotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

"Decoder Deluxe" is a relentless pace that predicts each note in time like some of the Fireballs songs did. Very nice.

Bull In My China Shop dotdotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

"Bull In My China Shop" has a Spanish flavor and very cool rhythm and melody. It's relaxed in an afternoon drive along the coast kind of way. Its lovely melody and easy gate call you back for more.

Quick Pick dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

This is in some ways a basic surf rhythm number, relying on a splendid bit of inter-string play, but it's much more than that. The break is superb, and the hook very catchy. "Quick Pick" is an apt title for this number. It reminds me some of Dave Myers & The Surftones' "Surfbreaker," though it's less rhythmic than that.

Comet Rustler dotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

"Comet Rustler" is a fluid piece with a very friendly melody line and welcoming sunset sound. You can imagine a trip across a great expanse as the sun sets on the horizon. Very nice.

Polynesian Cowboy dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

As the title implies, "Polynesian Cowboy" is a lovely track with a western melody and delicate island feel. Many guitars build on each other in a construction of lushness and endearing sound. It's a bit sad perhaps, or merely a post sunset pause to refresh.

Orbitron dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

Hinting at "Bat Man" in the intro, "Orbitron" includes whistling organ that gives it a slightly surreal feeling, while the rest of the track is pure surf traveling music. The combination is excellent, and the effect is solid and engaging.

She's Gone Again dotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

This cowboy surf instro has elements of Liverpool and cactus plains. It's a splendidly calming track with a light and warm sound. Somewhat like a modern incarnation of a lost Sandals soundtrack bit, "She's Gone Again" is just a very nice track.

Sorrow Bay dotdotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

"Sorrow Bay" employs the chord rhythm pattern that Trini Lopez used in "What Have I Got Of My Own" to great effect under this spectacular surf number. I found myself coming back here again and again. This really hooks you right inside.

Satellite Swing dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

The keyboard trades lead with the guitar in a really fun little ditty that's very warm. It's not often that I like organ with surf, but "Satellite Swing" is a superb exception. Inviting and fun, with a ska rhythm to boot.

Thunderbird dotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

"Thunderbird" is a fairly uncharacteristic track for Los Mel, with a fifties rock progression basis and jammy structure. While it's fun and easy, it's quite unlike the rest of this CD, and not very surfy.

Odessa dotdotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

Mel's Jewish music tradition shows though the rhythm and melody, with could easily be a song also from a Meshugga Beach Party set. Beautiful and fluid, and celebratory is a restrained kind of way. The female vocal is lovely. "Odessa" is a very fine track with lots of appeal.

Blueprint Girl dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

This gentle tune has a haunting melody and easy on the ears sound. It's very romantic is a rainy afternoon kind of way. "Blueprint Girl" suns like the little rivulets of an afternoon shower on your brand new car.

Dune Buggy dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

A warm and friendly melody, an open space feeling, and a relaxed sound add to the coolness of the whammy chords and melody line. Very nice track. This is not the Surfaris' "Dune Buggy."

Agent Provocateur dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

"Agent Provocateur" runs lightly through your imagination via the gentle shimmer of the tremolo, and the relaxed island melody. I found that this song invited multiple listenings, especially once the muted echoed plucking in the break cross my ears. It's a very pretty track that's really hard to dislike.

El Matador dotdotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

Dark heavy reverb rhythm chunk deluxe, cool boomy bass, and distant drums support a mysterious melody that is very compelling. "El Matador" really captured my attention. Wonderful!

Bikini Village dotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Vocal)

Echoed lead guitar plays a warm and circulating melody. Two vocal verses and a bit of narration find their way into this traveling piece - traveling because it would go quite well on a road trip.

Kava Kava dotdotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

Whoa! "Kava Kava" is haunting and oh-so cool, with its slide guitar lines and island mystery. Long cymbals rise and fall, guitar shimmer, and the tribal beat is very "Adventures In Paradise" meets "Albatross" cool. Superb! I need more stars!

Bird Lady From Ghost Town dotdotdotdot
Cowboy Surf (Instrumental)

The bird lady must be a surf bunny, 'cuz her theme is so cool! There's a combination of great deep rich reverb and glissandos, a sorta rock melody sound, and subtle power. Add bongos, tremolo tremble, and you get one nice track.