Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Santo and Johnny - Encore - The Best Of The Restdotdotdot
artworkSanto and Johnny rightly deserve much credit for their ground breaking lap steel work with their hit "Sleep Walk." Some of their other tracks are excellent as well, but much was sappy, and towards the end, they became a rock 'n' roll embarrassment, recording elevator mung with an orchestra and chorus, like David Rose gone mad. About half of the tracks here fall into this latter category, while a few are worth the price of admission. "Rattler" alone is worth the price. Beware the ides of slush, but revel in the few cool tracks. There's no surf here, though "Rattler" does approach the genre.
Picks: Rattler, Sugar Stroll, Road Block, And I Love Her, Sea Shell, Apache, Manhattan, A Hard Day's Night, Silhouette, Wandering Sea, On Your Mark, Let's Go, Let's Go, The Mouse, Hawaiian War Chant, Stage To Cimarron, Birmingham, Cherry [Sherry], Manhattan Spiritual, Revolution, Alabamy Bound, The Loco-Motion, Indian Reservation, Reflections, Old Man River, Music To Watch Girls By, All My Lovin', Please Please Me, On The Road Again, Sealed With A Kiss, Sleep Walk

Track by Track Review

Rattler dotdotdotdot
Steel Guitar Surf (Instrumental)

"Rattler" is that rare Santo and Johnny tune with a surf-like rhythm guitar, reverbed and percussive. The lap steel melody is exceptionally strong. A great tune, well arranged and very infectious. It is mean and dangerous, and friendly too. Like a film score trying to get out of a great garage band, this cuts right to the chase. Excellent.

Sugar Stroll dotdotdot
Steel Guitar (Instrumental)

The lap steel hides a slushy tune, melodic and suave, but not rockin'. It hints of the old west, like Death Valley Days, but is just a little too cute.

Road Block dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Surf (Instrumental)

This is an odd track, written like it was not for lap steel, but yet it works well interpreted for the steel. Really strong, melodic, different, and interesting. Slow and moody, with vibrato guitar in the lead and the lap steel playing a support role. The haunting tones and distant danger make for an interesting track. Originally released in 1963.

And I Love Her dot
Steel Guitar MOR (Instrumental)

Even the liquid lap steel doesn't bring this tune any rock credentials. The Beatles didn't get my attention, and neither does this. The cheesy mall organ makes it even more unpalatable.

Sea Shell dotdotdot
Steel Guitar MOR (Instrumental)

"Sea Shell" is a slow "Little Grass Shack" kinda tune, very islandic and pretty. Romantic and suave.

Apache dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Indian (Instrumental)

It's funny how this hasn't been done with lap steel much. It works really well. The smooth tone and excellent delivery are only damped by the cheesy organ. Otherwise, Jerry Lordan's tune shines brightly here. The arrangement is somewhat varied from the trad.

Manhattan dotdot
Steel Guitar MOR (Instrumental)

MOR slush with strings and Jackie Gleason thinking.

A Hard Day's Night dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Invasion Pop (Instrumental)

The question of the hour is "Why?"

Silhouette dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Sock Hop (Instrumental)

Showing their age, the brothers Farina drift through a meaningless fifties sock hop standard.

Wandering Sea dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Ocean (Instrumental)

With strings and lap steel issuing glissandoes like in "Song Of The High Seas" from Victory At Sea, this eventually yields to a sorta cowboy melody with chunky rhythm guitar. A bit too smooth, but somehow pretty intriguing.

On Your Mark dotdotdot
Steel Guitar (Instrumental)

Rockin; country twango with a jumpin' beat and a happy melody line. The rhythm guitar's chop behind the lap steel and big drums helps this stay on the rock side of the aisle. Quite a nice track.

Let's Go dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Cheerleader (Instrumental)

Yup, this is the Routers' hit. Not even a tad of the rooting ethic is left, and the cheesy organ really makes you wonder. The performance sounds tentative, like something outside a musical instrument store in the great mall of your nightmares.

Let's Go dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Cheerleader (Instrumental)

Yup, this is the Routers' hit. Not even a tad of the rooting ethic is left, and the cheesy organ really makes you wonder. The performance sounds tentative, like something outside a musical instrument store in the great mall of your nightmares.

The Mouse dotdot
Steel Guitar MOR (Instrumental)

Playful MOR for the Lawrence Welk show, but with more edge.

Hawaiian War Chant dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Polynesian (Instrumental)

Except for the chorus, this is pretty cool, like the Halibuts' version, though with much less edge. The orchestral stuff is a bummer too.

Stage To Cimarron dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Cowboy (Instrumental)

A big Duane Eddy guitar and lap steel combine for a really cool track, except for the orchestral mung. It's no worse than the treatments often applied to Duane Eddy's hits, but still... a perfectly good performance with bite turned into mush.

Birmingham dotdot
Steel Guitar Orchestral Jazz (Instrumental)

"Birmingham Jail" with horns and a Hollywood chorus... why bother?

Cherry [Sherry] dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Whoa, the Four Seasons' "Sherry" on lap steel. The simulation of the falsetto slides is impeccable. It's cheesy, but really funny. A nifty side trip. If Paul Johnson played lap steel, he probably would have done this song. Originally released in 1963.

Manhattan Spiritual dotdot
Steel Guitar New York (Instrumental)

Oh man, is there no sacred ground. It's more orchestral than anything else. Are Santo and Johnny even in here somewhere?

Revolution dotdot
Revolting Steel Guitar (Instrumental)

Man-oh-man, can you really make this Beatles' rocker sound like a retirement home classic? Why, yes you can, and with little effort... and that's the point, very little effort went into this. Where's my Dramamine?

Alabamy Bound dot
MOR (Instrumental)

One of those old "Orange Blossom Special" kinda train songs, infectiously flying down the tracks until the horrid organ and girls' chorus comes in, applying the shoehorn that eases it into the elevator. Originally released in 1960.

The Loco-Motion dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Little Eva was so evil sounding. Santo and Johnny do such a pristine cover. There's lots of spirit, and a bunch of fun at hand here. Great it ain't but an ice breaker it is. Think of it as a nice addendum to a set of lounge classics. Originally released in 1963.

Indian Reservation dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Billboard (Instrumental)

Don Fardon's hit... better left alone. Is this a go-go interpretation of the Mark Lindsey trashing? By the time you get to the horn section, you have to wonder what they were thinking.

Reflections dotdotdot
Steel Guitar (Instrumental)

Really slow and pretty lap steel, very emotionally played.

Old Man River dotdot
Steel Guitar Cheese Cake (Instrumental)

Oh boy! Here we go again. Flutes, orchestra, fluff everywhere.

Music To Watch Girls By dotdot
Steel Guitar Park Bench (Instrumental)

Even cheesier than the hit, with vibes and too-happy sappy sounds. Egads!

All My Lovin' dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Does the David Soul album come to mind? How about Pete Fountain. Give me a break.

Please Please Me dotdot
Steel Guitar Orchestra (Instrumental)

David Rose and his Intergalactic Bad Taste Orchestra... where is the lap steel? Oh, there is is, next to the Blue Light Special.

On The Road Again dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Blues (Instrumental)

Canned Heat immortalized in a gauze and sterile limp performances by all in attendance. Maybe they were all somewhere else when this was recorded. Still, there's something magically sick about this. Totally weird.

Sealed With A Kiss dotdotdot
Steel Guitar Slush (Instrumental)

Pretty, but then again, Bryan Hyland was such a looker...

Sleep Walk dotdotdotdot
Lap Steel Pre Surf (Instrumental)

It doesn't get much more definitive than this. Sinewy slow dance classic, beautiful melody, covered endlessly and never as well. Simply a stunning song. Originally released in 1959, this is one of the great instro singles of the distant past, which featured, for the first time, the lap steel in a lead role (outside of country and Hawaiian). This slithery slowdance romancer was/is the prelude to a whole lotta whoopee. It is so very beautiful. Totally sweet guitar sounds.