Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Packards - Pray For Surf / Beach City Bopdotdotdotdot
artworkThis is the long awaited CD issue of the Packards' first LP from 1980, and it's an even bigger event with the coupling of the 1982 cassette only album Beach City Bop, which contains the best version of "Wild Goose" ever! Paul Johnson's music from this period is not pure trad surf, though certainly it's within reach of an updated Belairs sound, and certainly oozes the water. An excellent release, necessary for the serious surficionado.
Picks: Mr. Moto, Andele, Windshield Wiper, Lanky Bones, Bedlam, Tally Ho, Lure Of The Curl, Squad Car, Beach City Bop, Wild Goose, Birdland, Vamonos, Rococo Rock, Don't Be Too Proud (To Be God's Child), Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord, Desert Madness (tango), Side Slippin', Scratchy, Kamikaze

Track by Track Review


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.

Andele dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another old Belairs song reconditioned for the eighties, Andelé is a rhythmic and melodic tune that humorously teases at the rushed existence. The sense of relentless churning is omnipresent here, with major emphasis on rhythm and guitar interplay. Playful and Spanish influenced.

Windshield Wiper dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

An old Belairs tune, mid-to-slow number, fluid and friendly. It carries the Paul Johnson signature on it's writing of course, and it lives up to the rep. The hip pace is infectious. Makes you wanna rush it along, but the impatience it creates is part of the attraction.

Lanky Bones dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Covered by many a surf band in the days of old, including the Challengers, this is a marvelous bit of playful writing, melodic and rhythm dependent. Chunkier than the others here, the drums play a major role in the effectiveness of the track. Perfect.

Bedlam dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

After so many years, it's good to hear this committed to tape the way it was meant to be, in effective stereo with subtle intricate guitarology by the master. It's closeness to Beat '65 has been long a curiosity to me. I assume that Richard Burns was influenced by this tune since it came later. Great.

Tally Ho dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Again, the drums create a necessary foundation for this rhythm dominated tune. Paul's sense of rhythm guitar has always dominated, giving his brilliant melodies a unique interlock with the rhythm guitar. Infectious and fun.

Lure Of The Curl dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Almost Polynesian, this extremely slow and beautiful number languishes in the backwaters of history. Too bad, because it foretells the coming of the Blue Hawaiians. Gorgeous.

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.

Beach City Bop dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is one of Paul's more familiar modern compositions. It's warm and percussive, and full bodied in the way only he can write. The lead-rhythm interplay is splendid.

Wild Goose dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is without a doubt the most magnificent recording of this tune. It's tom-tom driven surfy as hell without much reverb, and very spirited. When Paul first played this for me back in '84, I was bowled over. Together with the version of "Baja" on his California album, this is as good as it gets.

Birdland dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Paul has been playing this west coast jazz piece for almost 40 years. The jazz influence on surf is often overlooked, yet many of the guitarists listened to the likes of Cal Tjader and Wes Montgomery right along with the Lively Ones and the Ventures. Spunky and cool.

Vamonos dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This tune is from the golden days of the Belairs, Paul's seminal surf band. Great infectious rhythm and playful riffs. "Vamonos" hurries with the urgency of its title, and the humor too. Excellent!

Rococo Rock dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a PJ original with a bouncy almost classical feel, and the lilt of a guitar exercise gone awry, where the grins abound and the wine flows. Very fun.

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.

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.

Desert Madness (tango) dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is such a cool instro, with a tango beat and traditional tango sounding melody. Paul's playing is exquisite, and the rhythm very catchy. Fluid and celebrative.

Side Slippin' dotdotdotdot
Country Slide Surf (Instrumental)

"Side Slippin'" is a light bouncy bluesy n umber with a great slide guitar lead from Randy Mitchell. More country than surf, it also calls from the blue water. It reminds me of a few of the tracks on Chris Darrow and Max Buda's instro LP "Eye Of The Storm." Excellent track.

Scratchy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a playful cover of Travis Wammack's "Scratchy," made much more fluid by Paul's liquid guitar. Very cool and quite infectious.

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.