Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Thom Starr and the Galaxies - Long Boards Ruledotdot
artworkThom Starr was a surf guitarist back in the heyday of surf, with a version of this band. He worshipped Paul Johnson's guitar work. When Thom left the Galaxies, Paul took over. Paul said it was eerie, like stepping into his old band, the Belairs. Thom had brought them into exactly that place. Everyone knew what to do. This is a nineties recording, with Thom moved into a place where his rich surf tones are merged with new age and jazz, some working better than others. Thom Starr and The Galaxies were an important South Bay surf band. These nineties recordings are the result of Paul dragging Thom out of retirement. There are a few nice tracks, but the rest of the material is pretty far from the surf sound, with new age keyboards and really laid back arrangements in many cases. Almost elevator music, but with some redeeming sounds here and there.
Picks: Deweyland, Mr. Moto, Long Boards Rule, Nomad, Surf Fever, Journey [To the Stars], Surf Twazzle, Sancho Pancho, Kick Out, Happy Guitar, Renegade, Peanut Butter Wax, South Shore

Track by Track Review


Deweyland dotdotdot
Surf R&B (Instrumental)

Opening with a bizarre phone message for Dewey Webber, this is a hybrid track, with a traditional surf riff melody line played on Thom's low-E, that moves into a variation on the "Malegueña" riff for a bridge. The sax break is a soulful R&B jam. A nice track.

Mr. Moto dotdot
Jazz Surf (Instrumental)

A weird lite jazz bit opens this fluffy version of the Belairs' classic and earliest of all surf instros. It's slower, more fluid, and almost eerie. The keyboards are almost silly MOR. It has an air of elevator surf about it. Scary.

Long Boards Rule dotdot
Soft Rock (Instrumental)

Like a soft rock version of a surf tune, this has all the right melody structures and fluid sequences, but is arranged for a retirement home. Even the "hot" sax break sequence with it's pounding drums seems somehow held back, reserved, as if trying not to wake the neighbors. It's quite a nice track, just oddly restrained.

Nomad dotdotdot
MOR Surf (Instrumental)

Slow, richly tones guitar, surfy melody, gentle delivery. This is pretty and traditional in an old fart kinda way. The piano is a bit overdone in an MOR style.

Surf Fever dotdotdot
Near Surf (Instrumental)

Surf based, the melody is mostly a riff, and not as interesting as required. The track seems to be underdeveloped, like maybe a bit more time in the oven would have fleshed out what is essentially a good idea.

Journey [To the Stars] dotdotdot
Grocery Store Space Surf (Instrumental)

The power and pound of the Venture's hit are lost here. It's fusion oriented jazz lounge surf lite. Double picked guitar and fluffy new age keys. Thom claims writers credit, but the hit credits Mel Taylor - Nokie Edwards - Don Wilson - Bob Bogle (the Ventures), so... I do recall rumors back in the old days that it was really bought from someone, but that's a pretty vague memory, and even if that's true, it belongs to them if they did buy it. Maybe Thom wrote it and was ripped off back then. It would sound fine in the frozen foods aisle at Longs Drugs.

Surf Twazzle dotdot
R&B Twomp (Instrumental)

Big guitar twompin' over an R&B bed, like many a live groove generated back in the daze of old. Mostly just a progression, no melody and little of interest.

Sancho Pancho dotdotdot
Mexican (Instrumental)

Mexican village fiesta, piñata surf, with near-mariachi horns, and a sense of the sub-border region. Entertaining and enjoyable, but hardly rock or surf.

Kick Out dotdotdot
Aggressive Lounge Surf (Instrumental)

Damn hot guitar fire, but only a progression. Lots on energy and power. Almost infectious. The whammy and drum rages are hot, and the intensity is certainly the dominant factor. The longish drum solo is a bit too long, but it certainly pounds. Flying pounding modern fare. Think aggressive lounge.

Happy Guitar dotdotdot
Lazy Day (Instrumental)

Happy is right, just a playful side trip down lackadaisical lane, with an almost country feel to the riffs, enhanced by the country tinkling piano. Nice track.

Renegade dotdotdot
New Age Surf (Instrumental)

Prancing fluffy backtrack, heavy low-E lead guitar, and a nicely written surf progression melody. The keys detract from the overall effectiveness, but it still works well enough. It's a bit too old folks, but then...

Peanut Butter Wax dotdotdot
California Beach (Instrumental)

Playful, semi Mexican, or maybe tropical, this track oozes Herb Alpert at the beach. It's a fine blend of cheese and salsa, spiced for a summer afternoon with vibes and mariachi horns. Enjoyable, but not very surfy. Elements of reggae and Spanish styles, and a California beach culture feel.

South Shore dotdotdot
New Age (Instrumental)

New age light weight fluid ethereal ambiance. Delicately picked jazz based pretty.