Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Vara-Tones - Have Yourself A 'Vara' Merry Christmasdotdotdotdotdot
Easily the best Christmas album in years, this is essential for your holiday listening. Bill Epps' superb tone and perfect meter, supported with very strong performances from all aboard, is - well - necessary for your collection. It just doesn't get better than this!
Picks: We Three Kings, O Holy Night, Sleigh Ride, Here Comes Frosty, What Child Is This, Ave Maria, Maria Elena, A Vara Merry Medley, Angels We Have Heard On High, A Soalin', The Nut Rocker, O Little Town...

Track by Track Review


We Three Kings dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is just about the most richly surf rendering of "We Three Kings" I've ever heard. Superb tone, exceptionally surf arrangement, and very strong playing. Some verses double picked, some muted reverb, and all shiny wet.

O Holy Night dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Heavily reverbed, with chunky rhythm, and dribbling double picked melody lines, "O Holy Night" is entirely tubular. The notes just drip off the guitar.

Sleigh Ride dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Using springs for track reverb, and the Ventures' arrangement as a springboard, The Vara-Tones bring on the pure surf sound, and deliver it all with wonderful playing. "Sleigh Ride" is just great!

Here Comes Frosty dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Totally fun percussion, a country beat, and superbly precision double picked surf guitar, with a wonderful bass line. "Frosty The Snowman" is exuberant well beyond most versions. Thoroughly cool!

What Child Is This dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Simply beautiful, reverb drenched guitars play "What Child Is This" with splendor and reverence. This is more than a surf cover of a Christmas classic, it's a whole new thing. Beautiful arranging and genuine surf sound.

Ave Maria dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Oh my, "Ave Maria" is really cool. Reverb drips off every corner. Liquid double picked lines with extreme meter flow metronomically. Amazing! There's a long sustain note as they come into the break that's haunting and provides a dramatic transition.

Maria Elena dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Easily the best surf cover of Lorenzo Barcelata' "Maria Elena" on disc. The notes flow like water from the guitar.

A Vara Merry Medley dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A slab of classic melodies are segued into a scenic image of Christmas morning. Songs include many seasonal favorites, but I especially like "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." It simply rules!

Angels We Have Heard On High dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Shimmering tremolo and lovely muted surf with deluxe double picked leads. "Angels We Have Heard On High" is rock solid, and very well done.

A Soalin' dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"A Soalin'" sure is nicely done. The exceptionally cool arrangement, the delightful beat, the grand muted interludes, and the perfection of the performance add up to essential Christmas listening. I love this!

The Nut Rocker dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Peter Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" gets the surf treatment based on the B. Bumble and the Stingers hit version, but entirely reverb surf with no piano. Great whammy. Too fun!

O Little Town... dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Seldom amped up, "Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem" becomes infectious and very warm. The bridges between verses are just perfect! This arrangement is so fresh that it's startling.