Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Shadows - The Original Shadowsdotdotdot
artworkThe Shadows and the myriad of sound alike bands were to the UK and Europe what the Ventures and later the surf bands were to the US. The echoplexed guitar tones and scrubbed faced sheen of their recordings were a mirror of the times. While their music continues to be a vital part of the Euro scene, and is newly embraced by the transient lounge / exotica crowd, a few of their tracks hold up today as a side-bar to surf. While they defined the basis for the Australian sound of the Atlantics and Ray Columbus, little of their music was played or recorded in the US (the Challengers aside). Mostly, they recorded peaceable melodic quaint singles, often accompanied by strings and/or choruses. They were the equivalent of Buddy Merrill (Lawrence Welk's guitarist) or Roy Clark, more MOR than rock, and very low energy. Pristine is a more appropriate descriptor than powerful. Some of their work is quite infectious, but I find most to be relatively boring.

I come back to a mere handful of tracks, mostly from their US release titled Surfing With The Shadows on Atlantic, which bore no relationship at all to surf music. In fact, the UK instros I like best were from spawned artists Jet Harris & Tony Meehan (ex-Shadows), because their recordings like "Scarlet O'Hara" and "Diamonds" were much more primal and energetic, and their sound was more the US standard low-E dominated.

This CD contains a fairly broad correction of the Shadows' earlier works, some good, and some quite tepid. I'm supposed to like softer prettier lusher tamer less challenging music as I get older, but that just isn't my style. Close the elevator door and give me a real surf band with actual chemistry any day.
Picks: Wonderful Land, Shindig, Atlantis, F.B.I., The Savage, Guitar Tango, 36-24-36, Midnight, The Rise and Fall Of Flingel Bunt, Shazam, Dakota, Slaughter On Tenth Avenue, The Rumble, Walk, Don't Run, Geronimo, Peace Pipe, Perfidia, (Ghost) Riders In The Sky

Track by Track Review

Wonderful Land dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Melodic MOR for those afraid of the power of the guitar. The orchestral accompaniment relegates it to the fair propagated on the Safeway (supermarket chain) Network. If you are a Shadows fan, I'm sure you disagreed. Most that I have talked to think of this as one of their best. I just don't see it.

Shindig dotdotdot
Euro Fifties (Instrumental)

Big chord intro, and a pedestrian fifties structure and a cool melody line. Nice enough, and with it's rhythmic nature, it is enjoyable.

Atlantis dot
Euro (Instrumental)

The strings ruin what might have been a good track.

F.B.I. dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This is more like it, not that it's a killer tune or anything, but after some of the MOR podunk these guys have produced, it is a pleasant change to hear an actual rock instro. A simple progression / melody played mostly on the low-E over a light weight bed. It doesn't seem to suggest the title organization, either from the red-white-and-blue they're the best point point of view or the J. Edgar Hoover abused his power and set up his enemies point of view.

The Savage dotdotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

With a melody closer to "Music To Watch the Girls By" than the savage title would suggest, this slightly aggressive track is a cut above the usual MOR fair from these guys. The tom-tom intro is sorta tribal, and the trotting rhythm track is sorta outdoorsy, but otherwise, it's pretty tame compared to the edge you'd expect from the name.

Guitar Tango dotdotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

Listening to this, it's really hard to imagine that the Challengers actually covered it with more edge and energy than the original, a situation that is the reverse of their usual ploy. Sadly lacking in energy and interest.

36-24-36 dotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

Dream on Bubba... with a meaningless track like this, you'll only see that kinda figure in your imagination, or on the pages of that mag you subscribe to in lieu of having a life. This is definitely NOT music to GET the girls by.

Midnight dotdotdot
Islandic MOR Rock (Instrumental)

Semi islandic MOR track, with very nice guitar work, but so tame it could please old granny in the rest home. As a side bar to a great set from a real surf band, this would work fine, but within a set of relatively boring tracks like much of this, it just doesn't stand out. I could see it in a surf set, but not as a featured item.

The Rise and Fall Of Flingel Bunt dotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

Everyone else's version of this song is better than this lackluster rendition, and it's not even a very interesting song to begin with. It's more like Henry Mancini's "Banzai Pipeline" than a surf song worthy of Rick Griffin's classic cartoon character "Flingle Bunt." The Challengers covered this. It's not very surfy, but it has a Paul Johnson-like writing structure and sense of humor, it is a cool track too.

Shazam dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A pretty standard cover of the Duane Eddy song. Nothing special or memorable.

Dakota dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Harmonica lead MOR mung.

Slaughter On Tenth Avenue dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Painfully slow. This must be the version that Illusion covered, but they employed actual energy and had real emotions in their performance. Sterile and elevator inclined.

The Rumble dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This is NOT the Link Wray tune. It is a nice rock instro number, though the promise of it's tribal toms is not lived up to by the guitar playing. It's a little too happy for the subject at hand. If it were named "Frat Party At Oxford," it would be better. A good simple melody line and a bit of guitar crunch.

Walk, Don't Run dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Without even the drive of the familiar Ventures version, and with nothing new in the arrangement, it just kind of sits there. Not very interesting.

Geronimo dotdot
MOR Rock (Instrumental)

A reasonable melody that is not very Indian flavored, and backed up with horns and a chorus... yuk.

Peace Pipe dotdot
MOR Noodling (Instrumental)

Slow MOR noodling. Too pretty and tepid for words. Boring.

Perfidia dot
Euro MOR (Instrumental)

Jeez, the Ventures do the cha cha cha MOR upper crust prom.

(Ghost) Riders In The Sky dotdotdot
MOR Cowboy Rock (Instrumental)

Opening with the "Layla" chords over rolling toms, it does have a different arrangement. It does not have any of the cowboy angst or energy of nearly any other of the many other versions of this song.