Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Jim Thomas - Thomas' Promises: Nineteen Eighty Eightdotdotdotdot
artworkOne day in 1988, someone gave Jim Thomas a tape of my show. Hooked on surf, he captured a copy of Rhino's The Best Of Dick Dale on vinyl. Jim had never been in a band. He was a talented player, but had played for his own amusement only. Inspired, he toiled after hours at the music store he worked at writing new stuff. He started laying down his ideas on a four track porta-studio with a drum machine. He met Allen Whitman, and induced him to play some bass parts to finish off the ideas. That was the beginning of the Mermen. With the later inclusion of Martyn Jones, they would be a band. As soon as they got into a club, the local self-appointed surf police began to complain that the Mermen were using the wrong equipment. One of those grumbling about them was Frank Novicki, no slouch on surf guitar, but for a man who plays a Fender Mustang to complain...well. Fast forward to 1996. Allen Whitman emails Uncle Al and asks if he could do a CD-R to document this piece of history. 8 hours later, Thomas' Promises emerges. It is a very limited edition CD-R, only four written, one for Jim, one for Allen, one for Uncle Al, and one for me. I'm reviewing this, not to tease or say "nya nya nya," but to share the marvel that was this first seminal outing. In some future life, when the Mermen are bigger than French Toast, these recordings will undoubtedly be bootlegged due to the continued lack of common sense on the part of all major labels. What I find truly remarkable is the advanced state of the arrangements and the completeness of these works. It points to the talent that Jim posses. It is particularly remarkable because both Allen and Martyn are very talented players and arrangers of their own parts, and yet most of it is already here from the sole source of Jim's imagination. If ever this is released, you'll understand what I mean. This is a moment in time when magic happened.
Picks: Tough, Gnarl, Lonely Road, Ocean Beach, Goodbye, Kaena, Drifter, Pretty, Drivin', Trees, Getaway, Dancing With The Waves, A Dream, The Whales

Track by Track Review


Tough dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A jazzy tune that has elements of "Hammerhead" in it. Is this the well from which it sprang? Very nice.

Gnarl dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Echoplexed early version of the tune that became "Neptune's Revenge." Glissandoes and that great melody line add up to a very strong track.

Lonely Road dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This became "Krill Slippin'" under Martyn's imaginative titling. Jim wrote lyrics to this once. This light delicate rendition has a deliberate and flowing feel to it, and it still has that drivin' down the road to freedom sensibility.

Ocean Beach dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This early Echoplexed performance already had all the guitar interplay that would become a hallmark of Jim's writing. He is uniquely able to make his lone performance sound like several guitars, even before he acquired his multiple racks of effects. This version is more flowing or seamless or something than the subsequent versions.

Goodbye dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Very light and airy, and the keyboard adds an almost holy dimension to it.

Kaena dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Very deliberate and exotic, and quite different than the version on the Krill Slippin' CD.

Drifter dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This became "The Drift." It's much more gentle than later versions.

Pretty dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This gorgeous song became "Splashing With The Mermaid" ... quite a bit more present than the Krill Slippin' version.

Drivin' dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Evolving into "Driving The Cow," this track has a bit less character than it's remakes, but still is quite satisfying to listen to.

Trees dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Very moody with extreme sadness throughout. The rhythm guitar work is very nice here.

Getaway dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This became "Run Don't Walk" in it's later incarnations where it was speeded up some. I like this version better than any of the others. The character is very honest and the keyboard adds a touch of elegance.

Dancing With The Waves dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This became the marvelous "Soul Surfing." This version is more basic than either the "Krill Slippin'" or "Summer Surf" versions.

A Dream dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Before it was called "Abalone Daze," it was "A Dream" of a tune. This is less delicate, but still very beautiful, even stunning.

The Whales dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Sooo mysterious and sounding so much like humpbacks. The haunting nature of this piece is unmistakable and penetrating. Simply beautiful.