Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Jim Messina and his Jesters - The Dragstersdotdotdotdot
artworkJim Messina and the Jesters were one of the great surfbands. Jim Messina reportedly almost disavows his work in this band, but I find his playing to be fiery and refreshing, more interesting than his later work, including some with Buffalo Springfield, and especially the pap of Loggins and Messina.

This CD is a curious mix of the original Audio Fidelity album crude mixes in mono and the later Thimble remixes or re-recordings in stereo. All of his material needs to come from the original session tapes (Sundazed, are you listening?).

The band includes Jim Messina on lead guitar, Glenn Frey, Bill Beckman, and/or Ron House on dual rhythm guitars, Jim Sholstedt on bass, Dave Archuleta on sax, and Larry Cundieff on drums.
Picks: The Breeze and I, Raunchy, No Name Dragster, Strange Man, High Voltage, Yang Bu, The Thing, The Jester, Suspense Run, The Cossack, Masatlan Rally, Honky Tonk, Chihiuahua [Chihuahua], Tamale Wagon #2, Hollywood Sound

Track by Track Review


The Breeze and I dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A double picked fiery lead accompanied by a dry second guitar and a thumpy bass and drums. Strong delivery, with a thick sound. This track wails, with a fast delivery and plenty of energy.

Raunchy dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A thick and unusual version of the Bill Justis hit, but not very interesting. Chunky and full of screams from the band.

No Name Dragster dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This track employs a funky progression, is R&B oriented R&B, and has a fairly non surf melody line. Not very interesting.

Strange Man dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Strange is right. Launching from a variation on the Twilight Zone intro notes, this track visually screams "weird." It is somewhat like a cross between the Rumblers' "Boss" and the Rod Serling classic television show. It's not complicated at all, but is quite attractive, in a curiosity way. It also has a lasting effect, and stands up to repeated listenings. Quite unusual.

High Voltage dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Screaming engines, squealing tires, and thundering tom toms launch this high energy pounder. The melody is minimal, but the chord progression is unusual. Infectious and spirited.

Yang Bu dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Super chunky mean surf. The boys scream and shout relentlessly. The melody is shallow, but the ominous nature of the tune is very magnetic. This is a powerful and vicious surf track. It is also the Jesters' most familiar track.

The Thing dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Tom tom tribal, damped reverb chunk, and a jam lead guitar. This is like a B section of an AABA song, extended to be the whole thing. Powerful, but lacking in focus. The drum solo is very strong.

The Jester dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is just about as powerful and fast as surf gets, spitting notes out like machine gun bullets. The melody is a fine infectious bit of writing. This high powered track is just about the best Jim Messina writing ever. Nearly every cover IÕve heard has paled to this and the Thimble version.

Suspense Run dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Funky soul groove surf, with motor sounds overdubbed. This could easily be an R&B track from Bill Black or Ernie Freeman, but it is from the mind of Messina. OK, but not remarkable.

The Cossack dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The other great killer monster from the Jesters. This punishes the peace and quiet of an afternoon daydream with violently powerful double picking, and spectacular writing. The backtrack is not very Russian, but the melody is both eastern European and middle eastern sounding. Great track.

Masatlan Rally dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

With the flair of a Mexicano and the style of a hot roddin' surfnik, Jim Messina chunks out an intensely rhythmic and driving song. Strong and edgy, with plenty of surf reverb.

Honky Tonk dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Bill Dogget that had the hit? This is a nice surf adaptation of an old R&B instro. Nice performance, and the tone suits the melody.

Chihiuahua [Chihuahua] dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This traditional Mexican melody sounds really good converted to a surf track. The melody is a lot like the sort of thing Paul Johnson was writing in the early days of surf. It's rhythmic, infectious, and chunky. The bouncy and playful performance are quite enjoyable.

Tamale Wagon #2 dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Tamale Wagon #2" is mostly choppy, and very similar to a blend of the Piltdown Men's instro hit "Brontosaurus Stomp" and Duane Eddy's "Mason Dixon Lion." This is relatively non-melodic, and unremarkable as well. The hot rod sounds overdubbed do not help. It's not the same song as other Jesters tracks of the same name.

Hollywood Sound dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This has that funky Sunset Strip Go-Go club rhythm, and a chunky sound. It's a jam, and probably useful to end sets for that break.