Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Susan and the SurfTones - Bitchin'dotdotdotdot
artworkThis is Susan & the SurfTones' third CD. It's far and away their best. This is Susan's new band, put together after a move to Albany, New York. It's more artistic, more aggressive, less traditional Ventures inspired, and much MUCH more fluid and enticing. The lineup is now Susan Yasinski - guitar, Buck Melan - bass, Kim 13 - Farfisa and Vox organs (ex 1313 Mockingbird Lane), and Brian Goodman - drums. The addition of Kim 13 has brought an additional dimension to Susan's sound. The rhythm section is well suited to her style.
Picks: Trembler / Ace Of Spades, Clam Digger, Long Boards At San Onofre, Topsy, Chaquita, Wipe Out, Cayenne, Drums A Go-Go, No Matter What Shape, Spaghetti Beach, Latin'ia, Jezebel, Tramp, Beyond

Track by Track Review

Trembler / Ace Of Spades dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Link Wray provides the tune, Susan and friends provide the surf sounds. "Trembler" serves as the intro and outro for "Ace Of Spades," both of which are much cleaner than the Linkster, while neither loses its bite. The drums are haunting. Fine track.

Clam Digger dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a '98 composition of Susan's. The melody is a high register minor menace, sad and haunting, over a rhythm guitar-organ backtrack that supports it well. The unusual melody is quite appealing.

Long Boards At San Onofre dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Susan and the SurfTones recreate this classic Surf Raiders tune in their own image, with distortion and bite. They retain the feel, with the tribal island drums, melody, and organ backing, but the guitar tone brings it a much more intense appeal. The more I listen to this, the better I like it. Great interpretation!

Topsy dotdotdotdot
Big Band Rock (Instrumental)

Man oh man. Tribal drums, groovin' cool cats bass, and drivin' distortion guitar. Cozy Cole had a major Billboard hit with "Topsy Part Two" in the late fifties. His release is a splendid blend of big band and rock, and is very infectious. I've long thought it should be reinvented as a surf tune. Susan didn't exactly surf it up, but this rocking groove proves the rockability of the tune, and hints at its surfability. Very good listening. The retention of Cozy Cole's drum licks is a must, and the restraint with which they are played helps transfer the drive from drums to guitar, without undoing the power, and while enhancing the "cool" factor.

Chaquita dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The B-side of the Dave Clark Five's "Bits And Pieces" was a grand instro titled "Chaquita" that has long begged surf reincarnation. The Flat Duo Jets' rendering is hot and uses the pomp of "Sing Sing Sing" styled swing tunes. Susan and the SurfTones on the other hand, use suave tones, a groovin' low-key energy, and a quiet kinda thunder. This give it a very cool edge, and makes it very endearing. Susan's cries of "ooh, Chaquita" further the coolness.

Wipe Out dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

In a nearly complete renovation, Susan and the SurfTones use different tones, different drum cadences, and even alter the melody. The use of the drums from the Routers' "Let's Go" is a change that takes this from the realm of routine covers to that of valued update.

Cayenne dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Who'da thunk it? Paul McCartney's "Cayenne" makes credible fodder for a pretty surf instro, melodic, sad, and haunting. Susan's arrangement is nicely balanced, and the tone is most pleasing.

Drums A Go-Go dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This Paul Buff-Sandy Nelson number originally pumped out on the Hollywood Persuaders album and subsequently issued by Sandy Nelson as a single and album track has long begged a surf version. The Fifty Foot Combo version is splendid, and quite different than this. This is much more atmospheric and exotica rhythm driven. The drum mix is remarkably good, with the full stereo pan and chamber sounds. Excellent track.

No Matter What Shape dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The T-Bones hit with this television commercial theme (TUMS?) in the sixties. It's been done once or twice. This is solid and fun. The drums and guitar work well together, while the organ provides the ambiance. Nice track.

Spaghetti Beach dotdotdotdot
Spaghetti Western (Instrumental)

Susan and the SurfTones tribute to the spaghetti western genre is more than a little nice. Round guitar tone, with a whistling organ underneath, and great cowboy drums are all here. This is written by Buck Malen. The big boom reverb of the toms is very dramatic and super cool. Not quite of the Hellbenders' caliber, but damn close. I like this a lot.

Latin'ia dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a splendidly pretty version of Tommy Nunes' glorious tune. It has slightly less shimmer than the Sentinals' version, but at least as much charm. The organ adds a haunting air. Susan's playing is just beautiful.

Jezebel dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a crunchy cover of the Frankie Laine hit, not arranged like the Illusions, but more haunting and delicate. That's not to say there isn't power, there is. It's just more moody and less mean. Again, the organ adds a haunted feel to it.

Tramp dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Grinding edge, solid power, and a riff that says "hello, I'm your captain." The balance between the guitar and organ is quite nice.

Beyond dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the Chantays' tune. Susan and friends took this fine melody and gave it new life, with more guts and fresh sounds. The damped parts are really cool. It's good to hear someone do it without the bad production of the original, and without just cloning the arrangement.