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Category: Reviews

The Atomic Mosquitos: "Release The Mosquitos!"

The Atomic Mosquitos: "Release The Mosquitos!" (2005)
(Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101 and Reverborama on July 25, 2005)

I've recently gotten the sophomore album by the Atomic Mosquitos, "Release The Mosquitos!", and wow, it's great! The Atomic Mosquitos are from Frederick, Maryland (outside of Washington, DC), and I've known their drummer Craig Stang for many years now. He even filled in on drums for Doug of the Space Cossacks on several occasions. I'm so happy to see that Craig is not only still playing surf music, but that he's got one hell of a band!

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The Lost Legends Of Surf Guitar, Vol. 1-3

The Lost Legends Of Surf Guitar, Vol. 1-3 (Sundazed, 2003)
(Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101, Sep 13, 2003)

I got these three CDs about 3-4 weeks ago, and have been slowly digesting them. There are almost 60 tracks by something like 30 bands on here, so there's a lot to get a handle on. However, the more I listen to these three CDs, the more I like them. It's quite amazing that Sundazed was able to dig out this many songs, many if not most of which are very rare and have not been available on CD, and some which see the light of day for the first time.

The first thing you'll notice about these CDs is the absolutely SUPERB packaging! It's quite stunning, in fact. Each CD comes with its own fold-out booklet, with gorgeous original color photos of the bands and Fender's promo material; and on the face of each CD is one of Fender's Holy Surf Guitar Trinity: Strat, Jag and Jazzmaster. Each CD also comes with copious and excellent liner notes: vol. 1 by Dominic Priore, Vol. 3 by John Blair (can't remember who did Vol. 2 right now, and I don't have the CDs here). Also included are all sorts of interesting quotes and recollections by the original musicians themselves – for example, the lead guitarist of the New Dimensions says that the Jag with flatwound strings is really `thee' surf guitar, and that a Strat really WASN'T a surf guitar – something that Dick Dale, Paul Johnson, Eddie Bertrand, Jim Messina, Jim Fuller, Art Fisher and many others may disagree with! Anyway, great kudos to Sundazed for such a wonderful job with the packaging. WAY above the call of duty, and surpassing ever their own high standard of excellence.

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Jim Messina and His Jesters: "Dragsters"

Jim Messina and His Jesters: "Dragsters"
(Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101, June 25, 2004)

The original Jesters LP was released sometime in '64 and was credited to "Jim Messina and his Jesters" (notice the copy of "Dick Dale and HIS Del-tones") and it was called The Dragsters. This is the LP that was reissued on CD on the semi-legit Euro label Surf in the '90s. It's great stuff, 14 songs, 11 of them written my Messina. The covers are: an uptempo version of the Breeze and I, and surf-guitar-led versions of fifties instro hits Honky Tonk and Raunchy. Messina's guitar work is truly exceptional, sounding like DD's flashier doppleganger, with a lot of nimble fingerwork full of fast hammer-ons and pull-offs, and not as much double-picking as you may expect. (I only recently started noticing how Dick-Dale-ish Messina's playing was. Listen to "The Thing" - it's a total rip-off of DD's "Surfing Drums" - which of course was a Bo Diddley rip-off itself! - and the licks he's playing are completely DD. Messina also uses the pickup position #4 (neck and middle pickups) a LOT, which is also something that DD pioneered in surf music.)

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The Defiant Ones: Super Secret Disaster

The Defiant Ones: Super Secret Disaster (2006)
(Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101 on February 7, 2006)

The only reaction a person can have to this CD: Holy Crap! This is absolutely insane, completely over-the-top music. It's a side-project between two of the Balboas, Rich (lead guitar) and Caitlin (bass in the Balboas and baritone guitar here), and Dusty and Sam (Slacktone, Agent Orange, Jon & the Nightriders, Dick Dale, etc., etc., etc.). It's a mix of California hard-core punk and surf, and it's definitely UNIQUE. It's grungy as hell, and it ain't pretty in any way shape or form, but damn, it rocks like a mutha!

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Quite A Party! 24 Great Instrumental Bands Play the Fireballs

Quite A Party! 24 Great Instrumental Bands Play the Fireballs (Ace Records, UK, 2005)
(Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101 on February 7, 2006)

Here we have a tribute album that's been a long time in the coming. The Fireballs were a New Mexico band that got their start in '58 (pre-Ventures) and ended up becoming a major influence on both the Ventures as well as the nascent surf genre (especially the Belairs and the South Bay sound) with their early instrumentals which went beyond Duane Eddy and relied much more on the Fender sound. They also introduced a heavy dose of Mexicana to their tunes, which clearly has also had a big influence on surf music. And their lead guitar player George Tomsco penned some of the classic instrumental tunes, such as Bulldog, Torquay and Quite a Party.

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Wild Sammy & the Royaltones: Speed Crazy

Wild Sammy & the Royaltones: Speed Crazy (One Million Dollar Records, Germany)
(Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101 on February 7, 2006)

This is the same band as the Royal Fingers, about whom there was some discussion here recently. So, a Japanese trio with a girl bass player. I first heard their song Echo Rocket 66 on the Continental zine compilation and thought it was really great, so I bought their Del Fi album 'Wild Eleki Deluxe' – and hated it. I put the CD away and forgot about it, until people started talking about it on SG101, at which point I pulled it out again and gave it another spin. Strangely enough, I got really into it at that point, and now love the CD. 'Speed Crazy' is pretty much as good 'Wild Eleki Deluxe', though it is more lo-fi in production. Most of it is lo-fi in a way that makes it sound kinda vintage (with a lot of distortion of the rhythm section), though there are two songs (Jet GT and Pipeline, both maybe live?) that sound really bad, like they were recorded on a seventies boom box. There is slight overlap between the two CDs, with four songs being on both CDs: Wild Datsun, The L.A., Running Donkey, Echo Rocket 66. But as far as I can tell they're different performances and recordings, so it's not that big of a deal.

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The Surfaris: Hit City '64 / Fun City, USA

The Surfaris: Hit City '64 / Fun City, USA (BGO Records, UK, 2005)
(Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101 on February 7, 2006)

Though I already have pretty much everything by the Surfaris on their three previously released CDs, I decided to pick up this new two-fer reissue anyway, and I'm glad I did. These guys don't get much respect and don't have many champions (Satan's Pilgrims are among the very few). And for sure, they're no Eddie & the Showmen or the Lively Ones or the Astronauts, etc. But they were a good surf band that did a LOT more than Wipe Out, and all surf music fans should check them out. These two albums (their 3rd and 4th – or if you don't count their first one which was actually performed by the Challengers, their 2nd and 3rd) have a lot of great stuff on them. About half of each is vocals, mostly in the Gary Usher/Beach Boys style (with session musicians backing up drummer Ron Wilson's vocals) – and none of them quite as good as the Beach Boys, though overall not too bad. The highlights here are Wax, Board and Woodie, I Wanna Take a Trip To The Islands and Hot Rod High. (Gary Usher actually produced the first of these two albums.) There are also some garage-y vocals, with mixed results (the bad: Louie Louie, Hound Dog; the good: Go Go Go For Louie's Place). Among the instrumentals there are some covers, some of which really aren't very good (Shazam, Comin' Home Baby, Scratch) and some of which are so good that you can say the band actually made them their own (Murphy The Surfie, Hiawatha, Earthquake). The best stuff by far on this CD is the handful of the Surfaris' originals: Scatter Shield (awesome!), Dune Buggy (really cool), Big Surge, Burnin' Rubber, and Hot Rod Graveyard. This British release is part of a complete Surfaris reissue series, with two other CDs compiling the first two albums and their two seventies releases. This one comes with original sleeve notes as well as detailed and interesting liner notes by Dave Peckett of New Gandy Dancer zine, who is probably the biggest champion of the Surfaris out there. Anyway, this is a class reissue all the way and I give it a big thumbs up and highly recommend it.