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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Music Reviews »

Permalink Surfadelic Spy-a-Go-Go by Crazy Aces CD Review by Noel

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Surfadelic Spy-a-Go-Go by Crazy Aces CD Review by Noel

What do you do if you’re a quartet of Nashville Cats who like to play music for the sheer fun of it? You might just play more country music. It sometimes seems like it’s what everyone does in Nashville. But what if you want to create and play something else, something completely different, just for the sheer pleasure of playing joyful, catchy, fun music? You might be a Crazy Ace. And what if you wanted to make a record that conveyed the fun you have playing the music you create and perform? You might record Surfadelic Spy-a-Go-Go by Crazy Aces. So they did!

Surfadelic Spy-a-Go-Go is the follow-up to their first record, Crazy Aces - Greatest Hits Volume 2. Recorded in a home studio, it replaces the Hi-Fi sound of their first record with something aiming to recreate their live sound while, according to Jeff Senn, also “… hinting strongly toward some classic first wave Surf, ‘60’s Abbey Road, classic psychedelia, and Go-Go sounds.” So… what’s it all sound like?

Thrown Away
I don’t know what was thrown away, but I’m glad this song wasn’t it. It’s got what is almost becoming a signature Crazy Aces sound - a series of distinct short melodic phrases with a variety of catchy beats and orchestrations that repeat until it suddenly ends with a humorous phrase that caught me by surprise the first time, and for which I waited with anticipation on subsequent listens. This is fun music for the sake of being fun music. It is fun, and I like it.

Kikobella
This is one of my favorite songs on the record. It reminds me of sixty’s British television spy programs like The Prisoner and The Avengers for some reason. I always like anything that reminds me of those wonderful series. It could be music from an unaired episode of either of those series or a theme song for a pilot of an unproduced program. In my opinion, Kiko is pretty bella.

Big Dog
This starts out as one of the most traditional surf songs on the record, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. The song has swagger and a great beat to go with the fantastic tone of the lead guitar. The melody is something that could be spaghetti, but other elements turn the overall effect into something else entirely, something modern - car-chase, not horse-chase, and that tone at the end straight out of The Outer Limits isn’t remotely Nineteenth Century. Very, very cool!

Rain For Sunday
This is probably going to become my favorite song on the entire record. I like it that much. And it’s that good. I’m just a sucker for a lovely melody and the song’s exotic elements that recall island getaways. The song creates a vivid image of a small cottage on a deserted beach, rain quietly falling so we stay inside and dance to the sound of the rain falling on the roof and palm trees outside. A perfect song for a perfect evening in a perfect location. Very romantic. Perfect.

Temple of Cool
It is, you know! It’s got an ultra-cool groove on that is foot-stompin’ jumpin’ ‘round the room infectious like anything and more than most. Plus it has a wonderful, deep tremolo going for it that just adds to the cool factor. I like tremolo. It isn’t used here for everything, so when it comes back with the chorus, it’s welcome and not tiresome. This is a song that makes me want to dance to it, or just jump around a lot to the beat and hope I don’t knock something over. Cool!

Millions in Prizes
Kaleidoscopes on the TV screen, fast in-out zooms, swirling images, Pop-art graphics and pop-up comedians saying very silly things, Go-Go girls, Mod-fashioned folks decorated with giant paisleys in bright colors. Girls with short hair and shiny vinyl micro-mini skirts. Boys with long hair and shirts with oversize collars. This might be the most fun on the record. Just go ahead and sock it to me!

Gotham
Holy Batman! Bang! Zoom! Crunch! Where’s Robin? Waiting in the Batmobile of course. And right in the middle of music that sounds like it could be from that iconic TV series comes an interlude that momentarily suggests New York after dark above 96th Street, in the rain, with only a dim streetlight in the distance to show the way. Who’s that in the shadows? Funny you should ask?

Happy Shadow
I love The Shadows. There’s something about their music that was the beautiful calm before the storm. But this is The Shadows on Crazy Aces. There are lots of touches that make sure this song doesn’t just copy the mood and style of the originals. It feels different, maybe more frenetic and garage band-like. In a good way. No one’s crying for this Shadow.

Agent Yellow Jacket
Cheese it – it’s the Fuzz! Lots of attitude and bravado mixed with a swinging vibe of funky, slinky, edgy, driving beat. This song just rips into cheap detectives driving beat-up cars and cheaper girls going along for the ride. Is anyone in this story the good guy? Is the victim simply the slowest bad guy? You got to have a lot of confidence to play this game, and a lot of skill to play this song. Want to dance to it? Do the boogaloo!

Busted & Broken
My second favorite song on this album by the bulge of a worn out fighter’s nose. If there’s a genuine noir song on this album, this is it. The melody is right out of dimly lit bars with cheap whisky, bad days and worse nights, desperate women with nothing to lose, down on their luck men who’ve already used up their last chance. This is not the place to look for salvation, a fair shake, or even sympathy. This is the dead end of life and you’re busted and broken. This song is fantastic! I want to watch any movie that has the nerve to use this as its theme song. It’s that terrific!

The Long Ride
This is a lovely song. It’s a gentle, lilting spaghetti-western with a touch of humor that shows great fondness for its subject. The melody is beautiful and romantic, and the rhythm, well if you’ve ever ridden a horse slightly faster than a walk, you’ll recognize it. Horses can cover ground at this speed for long periods without tiring, and it’s easy on the riders, too. This song is a perfect way to end the record, riding off into the sunset.

Surfadelic Spy-a-Go-Go by Crazy Aces is a very worthy successor to their debut release. It’s different-sounding while being true to their sound and feel. The material is fresh and unexpected, yet who else but Crazy Aces would have made this record?

I’ve enjoyed every minute of listening to this record over and over for hours while writing this review. There’s so much variety, I never once got bored or tired of it. I can’t wait to just play it and be surprised all over again by how much fun it is to listen to.

Crazy Aces (on this recording) are:
Jeff Senn, Guitars and Keys
Tom Hoey, Drums and Percussion
Justin “Oscar” Cary, Electric and Acoustic Bass
Kiwuamu Stewart, Guitars

Surfadelic Spy-a-Go-Go
Produced and Engineered by Jeff Senn and Crazy Aces
Mixed by Jeff Senn
Mastering by Alex McCollough at Yes Master, Nashville, TN
Graphic Design by Glen Hannah at StudioGoongah, Australia
Back cover and inside photos by Alex McCollough

The following gear was used to record Surfadelic Spy-a-Go-Go, and while they don't make up for all the time and talent that went into making this record, they did contribute significantly to the sound and feel.

Guitars
1959 Guyatone LG-50
1966 Harmony Rocket
A handful of mid-‘60’s Teiscos
Rickenbacker 325 and 330
1953 Gibson CF-100
1972 Mosrite Mark I
Reisssue 1962 Epiphone Sorrento

Bases
Rickenbacker 4001
1966 Teisco Decca
Epiphone Rivoli
Eastwood Sidejack VI
Upright Bass

Amplifiers
1973 Princeton Reverb
1966 Princeton Reverb
1960 Supro small single 6V6 with 8-inch speaker
Supro 1624T
1953 Fender 5C3 Deluxe

Crazy Aces are on
Surfguitar101 http://surfguitar101.com/ as CrazyAces
On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CrazyAcesMusic
Email Crazy Aces at crazyaces@comcast.net

For Ace, who is the best dog I never met.

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Last edited: May 21, 2015 12:54:44

looking forward to hearing these guys in a few weeks

www.surfintheeye.com

A fine review, nicely done Noel; anxiously awaiting the chance to order.
Cool

Wes
SoCal ex-pat with a snow shovel

DISCLAIMER: The above is opinion/suggestion only & should not be used for mission planning/navigation, tweaking of instruments, beverage selection, or wardrobe choices.

A big thanks to Noel for doing such a thoughtful and thorough review in such a short amount of time.
That anyone would listen, so closely and attentively to our music......I am truly grateful and honored.

http://www.facebook.com/CrazyAcesMusic
http://www.youtube.com/user/crazyacesrock
http://www.reverbnation.com/crazyacesmusic

Another great review Noel! Can't wait to hear it for myself.

Mike

manfromravcon.com

I need the DP version in clif notes.

Jeff(bigtikidude)

I just listened to this for the first (three) time(s) today and the writing, arranging, and playing/performances are all top notch. I would even go so far as to say the Crazy Aces have released a modern classic.

The Squares - 1995-2002
The Mystery Men? - 2012-
MOONBASE - 2012-2017
The KBK - 2017
Southern Surf Stomp!

Damn Chad, That's awfully kind!
Thanks to you I'll be walking on air for another weekend.

Cheers,
Jeff

http://www.facebook.com/CrazyAcesMusic
http://www.youtube.com/user/crazyacesrock
http://www.reverbnation.com/crazyacesmusic

Ok so I am a little late to this party but I just bought the download of Surfadelic Spy-a-Go-Go from Amazon. I think it's awesome it's now in rotation with Man or Astro Man? Destroy All Astromen and Eliot Easton's Tiki God's Easton Island on my mp3 player. My immediate favorite is Rain For Sunday, I have been listening to a lot of Shadows and Joe Meek stuff lately and it kind of has that feel to it. Great work guys !!!!

Ron, that's exactly what we were after with "Rain For Sunday" so thank you so much for acknowledging that and also for the support and kind words.

Cheers,
Jeff

http://www.facebook.com/CrazyAcesMusic
http://www.youtube.com/user/crazyacesrock
http://www.reverbnation.com/crazyacesmusic

CrazyAces wrote:

Ron, that's exactly what we were after with "Rain For Sunday" so thank you so much for acknowledging that and also for the support and kind words.

Cheers,
Jeff

Agree with Ron; that is an awesome tune & you captured that goal beautifully. I'd love to see another interview by Noel (since he usually has absolutely 'nothing' to do, nyuk nyuk) describing the nuts & bolts of the sounds achieved on that album. You really nailed that echo that was needed on Rain. Analog Delay into a tank, or...?
Big Grin

Wes
SoCal ex-pat with a snow shovel

DISCLAIMER: The above is opinion/suggestion only & should not be used for mission planning/navigation, tweaking of instruments, beverage selection, or wardrobe choices.

Badger wrote:

CrazyAces wrote:

Ron, that's exactly what we were after with "Rain For Sunday" so thank you so much for acknowledging that and also for the support and kind words.

Cheers,
Jeff

Agree with Ron; that is an awesome tune & you captured that goal beautifully. I'd love to see another interview by Noel (since he usually has absolutely 'nothing' to do, nyuk nyuk) describing the nuts & bolts of the sounds achieved on that album. You really nailed that echo that was needed on Rain. Analog Delay into a tank, or...?
Big Grin

That sounds like a terrific idea. If I only had all the production notes for the record... Big Grin

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Last edited: Jun 14, 2014 16:18:01

I do have most of the production notes/gear used from the sessions
If anyone's really interested.
I'd be happy to furnish this info to Noel to compile.

http://www.facebook.com/CrazyAcesMusic
http://www.youtube.com/user/crazyacesrock
http://www.reverbnation.com/crazyacesmusic

CrazyAces wrote:

I do have most of the production notes/gear used from the sessions
If anyone's really interested.
I'd be happy to furnish this info to Noel to compile.

I am, and would love to put this together as an appendix to my review of the CD.

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Noel, I'll get with you early this week if that works?

http://www.facebook.com/CrazyAcesMusic
http://www.youtube.com/user/crazyacesrock
http://www.reverbnation.com/crazyacesmusic

CrazyAces wrote:

Noel, I'll get with you early this week if that works?

Sure, Jeff. Emails will work best. Thanks!

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

This from Jeff. Other than a couple of spelling errors and some formatting, I've left it as I received it. Wow! Just... Wow!

We used a total of 18 guitars on the record.
'72 Mosrite Mark I - flatwounds
'66 Teisco K-2 - flatwounds
'66 Teisco EP-200
'67 Teisco ET-310
'65 Teisco W2-GL
'58 Guyatone LG-50
'66 Harmony Rocket
'11 Senn Pomona (T-style)
'04 Senn Fullerton (S-Style)
'12 Senn Fullerton with Gold Foil Pickups
'13 Senn Prototype (our new original design)
'12 Senn Jazzguar (long scale Jag)
'13 Epiphone Sorrento Re-issue
'10 Gretsch White Falcon LTV
'87 Greco Rick 330 copy
'06 No name Rick 330 copy
'09 Hutchins Rick 325 Copy
'53 Gibson CF-100

We could have cut the record with 4 guitars but these were all around and it was easier to get different sounds by just grabbing a different guitar.

Amps included
'53 Fender 5C3 Deluxe
'59 Supro 1624T
'73 Princeton Reverb
'66 Princeton Reverb
'60 Supro 1616 - Like a champ
'97 Fender Pro-Jr
'66 Fender Super Reverb
'10 Hime Hurricane
'98? Fender Reverb Tank reissue

Unless Fuzz was used all the overdrive sounds on the record came from the amps, no pedals.

All Tremolo was from the amps as well.

Pedals used:
TC Electronic Nova Repeater Delay
Pigtronix Disnortion Fuzz
Joyo Ultimate Octave Fuzz
T-Rex Delay
Electro Harmonix Micro Pog
Behringer UV-300 Vibrato
Behringer VD-400 Delay

Recording gear was basic.
Digidesign Mbox (generation 1)
Digidesign 002 Rack
Behringer UB1202 mixer (tiny four input thing)
Pro Tools 8 Software

All stock and very few plug ins.

Handfull of cheap Mics (all under $100.00 except the D112)
2-Sure SM57's (Guitars and Kick Drum)
2-MXL 990's (Overhead and most of the drum sound)
2-MXL 991's (Overhead on a few songs)
1-Nady RSM-2 Ribbon (Guitars)
1-Nady RSM-5 Ribbon (Guitars)
1-AKG D112 (for the kick drum)

We recorded 16 bit/44K in an attempt to record in a medium that would be the same as the release and also get a little bit more of a LoFi sound however I don't think we'll do this again as I could definitely hear the difference in guitar sounds, complexity, low end and overall dynamics that I feel worked against our diligence in guitar and amp choices as well as overall band sonics. I'm not a big fan of drums that sound like they were produced by a heavy metal engineer or over processed guitars in the genre. It's all fine if that's what the band wants but it's not for me but a little more accurate reflection of some of the tones we created would be good and we'll adjust accordingly in the future.

All guitar amps were single mic'd, anywhere from 2 inches to 2 to 3 feet from the cabinet. 2 to 3 Mics were used on the drums to capture more of an overall kit sound.

Details about Songs we get asked about.

"Thrown Away" -
Jeff: '72 Mosrite Mark I into a little Supro 1616 with an 8" speaker, Nady RSM-2 Ribbon Mic. No pedals/effects

Kiwamu: Senn Fullerton (S-style) with Goldfoil pickups into a '66 Princeton Reverb, RSM -2 Ribbon Mic on this as well. No effects

Drums: One MXL 990 Condenser Mic as overhead, SM57 in front of Kick but about 2' high and 1' out to capture some kit.

I really wanted a stripped down, early first wave sound for this song, No reverb tanks or echo, thus the two Mic technique on the drums, small amps and Ribbon Mics. A little room sound was added at the end of the mix to give it an early studio vibe.

There's just a little compression on the kick and guitars but that's about it.

"Temple Of Cool" -
Jeff: '66 Teisco K-2 with flatwounds into a Supro 1624T, Reissue Fender ReverbTank, SM57 Mic

Kiwamu: Same Teisco for rhythm thru Supro 1616, RSM-2 Ribbon Mic, Tremolo Melody : '65 Teisco W2-GL thru Supro 1624T (a wonderful and unique amp for Tremolo), SM57 Mic

Drums: Same as Thrown Away

Aggressive and gritty is what we wanted here but not too big and polished or modern sounding. All the grit and drive is from the amps and the Tremolo in an original Supro 1624T is a thing to behold. Oscar did two bass tracks for this, one clean and one dirty. As soon as Kiwamu and I heard the dirty track we said Hell yes, that's it! The dead stop/silence right before the outro is something I immediately heard in my head when the song came to me and was executed wonderfully by Alex McCullogh, our mastering engineer and fifth Crazy Ace.

"Rain For Sunday" -
Jeff: '04 Senn Fullerton with Lollar Special bridge pickup, TC Electronic Nova Delay set for Multi-Tap delay, Fender Pro Jr. amp through a Mojotone BV-30H 12" speaker, Nady RSM-5 Ribbon Mic, '53 CF-100 Acoustic, Nady RSM-5 Ribbon Mic

Obvious influence here and we totally wanted the old Abbey Road, EMI kind of sound. Kiwamu wasn't available to record this so I put down the acoustic track. The Ribbon mic on that old Gibson really conveys the older, more midrangey sounds of that period (at least to me). Much of what engineers dial out frequency wise today from an acoustic guitar is what made some of those old Shadows' and Beatles tracks "sound" so cool.

There is no reverb tank on the melody guitar, only the echo and some added room reverb at the end of the mix. Oscar's upright, acoustic bass warms up and fills the low end in a way that has been discarded from many modern recordings. A friend was going to bring over his '64 AC-30 for me to use on this track but time was running out to complete the record so I just grabbed my Pro Jr. and was very happy with the result.

The Pizzicato strings were played on an iPad and the other strings were filled out on a Roland RS-50

"Busted and Broken" -
Jeff: '13 Epiphone Sorrento Reissue, '53 5C3 Fender Deluxe, Reissue Reverb Tank, TC Electronic Delay, SM57 Mic

Rhythm:
Track 1: Same guitar as above, '73 Fender Princeton Reverb, Pigtronix Fuzz (set very, very low)
Track 2: Gretsch White Falcon, '66 Super Reverb, SM57 Mic

This song was added at the very end of the sessions. The band had never heard or rehearsed it until Guitar, Bass and Drums were tracked live. The lead track was recorded the following week and took a while, not the playing aspect but the sound. I really wanted some feedback from the amp that just verged on the out of control and trying a few different amps and guitars took a while. The lead sound is the Tweed Deluxe, near cranked with the Epiphone Mini-humbuckers and it was a lot of fun. You can hear a slight difference in tone in the outro verses, slightly less hot, less feedback. While I was recording the bridge pickup had worked it's way lower from the strings without me noticing. I was engineering and producing myself and had a crazy new pup that had managed to tangle herself in my cable during the outro. Funny but maddening at the same time, LOL. I sure wish I had video of this, as she was pulling my guitar towards the floor as I was trying to finish the last notes.......Ha Ha. If I had one to do over, lead wise on this record it would be this. Too many distractions. This is one where I wish someone else was producing and engineering so I could focus on playing and playing only. I still love the melody and the song though and once we release something it's done and gone.

The orchestral parts were layered and played individually on a Roland RS-50.

"The Long Ride" -
Jeff: Epiphone Sorrento, '73 Princeton Reverb through a 12" Jensen P-12Q speaker, RSM-5 Ribbon Mic
Senn Jazzguar, signal chain same as above

Kiwamu: '53 Gibson CF-100, RSM-5 Ribbon Mic

This song came late to the project as well. Heard in a dream one night, recorded the next. Tom put the brushes on later, during a tracking session for a few other songs and Oscar did two Upright Bass passes. The first was an inspired, off the cuff take that had great tone but the playing was different than my vision for the song. He later tried another take using my suggestions but in the end there was an noticeable difference to the feel and intention of his original track so we kept it.

"Gotham" -
Jeff: Epiphone Sorrento, '73 Princeton Reverb, Pigtronix Fuzz, Behringer Vintage Delay, SM57

Kiwamu: Teisco WG-2L, '66 Princeton Reverb

Tracked live as a three piece, Bass, Drums, Guitar and Kiwamu added his parts later. We started recording this song over a year ago at our separate home studios but when it cam time to finish the tracking for the record we found the drums to be too "refined" and recorded a little too clean and multi-tracked so we recut it live also with the hope of getting a better feel as we love performing this live and I really think we accomplished our goal.

"KikoBella" -
Pretty well documented in this video as far as actual guitar choices: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX6lwP9JmlQ

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Thanks for posting this addendum Noel.

http://www.facebook.com/CrazyAcesMusic
http://www.youtube.com/user/crazyacesrock
http://www.reverbnation.com/crazyacesmusic

CrazyAces wrote:

Thanks for posting this addendum Noel.

I thought about editing it for length, or making it part of something else, but I couldn't justify a single cut.

I do have one question though; who whistled on Eastwood Outlaw? Big Grin

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

"I do have one question though; who whistled on Eastwood Outlaw?"

That was me Noel.
Some of the band were skeptical of the idea. When the tracks were done I went into the live room and whistled the tune into one of the drum overhead mics (AKG414 for those who care)
Two takes, I came back into the mix room and the engineer and the band were looking at me like "didn't know you could do that" LOL
I don't know if I knew either!

http://www.facebook.com/CrazyAcesMusic
http://www.youtube.com/user/crazyacesrock
http://www.reverbnation.com/crazyacesmusic

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