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Impala: El Rancho Reverbo

Impala: "El Rancho Reverbo"
Icehouse Records, 1994 (

"El Rancho Reverbo" was the first release by Impala, back in 1994. So, obviously, this is not a "new release" by any means; however it is new to my CD player! Recorded in Memphis TN at Sam Phillips Studio, "El Rancho..."' does hearken back to the simpler times of twist, twang and reverb.

Impala features John Stivers on guitar; Scott Bomar on bass, Farfisa organ and guitar; Justin Thompson on tenor sax; and Jeff Goggans on drums. Additional players include Alex Green on Hammond organ and "Sunrise" on trumpet.

The CD kicks-off with the oh-too-short "El Rancho". This 31 second tidbit begs to be developed into a full-fledged theme suitible for the next Sergio Leone spaghetti-western episode. "El Rancho" whets the appetite, and leaves you thirsty for more, gringo.

The second cut, "Odalisque" is a stomping surf number full of drive and reverb. A catchy melody, rolling drums and a haunting tone makes this cut particularly memorable.
"Ronnie and the Renegaids" is a rockin' little number with just a touch of the reverb. Although a simple arrangement, "Ronnie and the Renegaids" is a hopping tune, for sure.

The next few cuts on this CD take a little detour through the cornfields: "Wild Night at the Bloody Bucket" has a Chuck Berry-esque roots rockin' sort of feel to it. The twanging Telecaster sound of "Wild Night..." may not be everyones cup-of-tea, but I found the tune to be fun and an enjoyable listen.

"Last Tango in Turrell" really caught my attention. I am a sucker for Latin rhythms coupled with haunting reverb guitar. "Last Tango..." ands in a chirpy sax line and several beautiful twists and turns. "Last Tango in Turrell" really shines and stands out as an "instant classic" on this CD.

The hauntingly-trippy-slow-dance-sax/organ/reverb-sound of "What the Astronauts Drink" proves enchanting. The sax and organ have just the right live ambience...this tune sounds as if it were recorded in the Rendevous Ballroom: lots of space and natural reverberation. Simply another beautiful cut.

"Anna Vienna" is a cool surfer's stomp type number...very energetic and a cool tune. "Open All Night" is a soul-style tune, but soul in the old Booker T and the MGs sense...sort of a "Delano Soul Beat" number. The organ/sax/trumpet interplay is way cool and smooth. A very Stax-influenced number.

"Taos Pueblo" provides yet another dose of reverb and drive...the tune is simple and somewhat one-dimensional.

In "Have You Seen This Man", the twanging Telecaster sound returns, but this time it is tempered with a healthy dose of reverb. You can almost make out the lyrics (or rather make up the lyrics) as you listen to this nifty melody.

Near the end of the CD, two tunes in particular stand out: "Hell of a Woman" and "Experimente in Terror/Stalkin". "Hell of a Woman" is a smokey sax-driven minor-keyed theme for some pulp-style detective tale. Very moody...think: "Twin Peaks Soundtrack"...and you know what I mean.

In the final cut, Impala, trys their hand at a medley: Mancini's "Experiment in Terror", coupled with Lee Hazelwood's "Stalkin"...very intriguing, to say the least.

Overall, Impala hits the mark with "El Rancho Reverbo". They deliver a nice collection of moody, authentic surf-style tunes mixed up with some nasty rockers and a touch of country twang. Overall, the playing is very good with only a couple of minor problems...occasionally the instrumentalists are out of tune, or playing in the wrong key. Also, sometimes the rhythm (or tempo) seems to noticebly vary in an annoyingly wobbly sort of way. Very slight problems, probably only noticeble to the musicians in the listening audience.

Overall, I'm glad I picked up "El Rancho Reverbo". Impala certainly delivers up a tasy slice of reverberated roots-style rock-n-roll. Twang!

This story has 3 comments.


I just picked “El Rancho Reverbo” just last week, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite CDs! Your review is spot on I second it!

Dark_Knight | 16-Jul-2006 00:25:41 | Flag

It's good to see you aroud here! Visit us more often.


Tikitena | 16-Jul-2006 18:07:36 | Flag

DP, it's really quite a coincidence you reviewed this CD now. About a month ago I pulled out all three of my Impala CDs since I haven't listened to them in many years. I bought these CDs when they were first released, which was right around the time I discovered the third wave. They were among the first of the 3rd wave bands I knew about. So, over the last month I decided to reacquint myself with them. Well, I haven't been home a whole lot for the last month, but when I was, I'd listen to them. I came to the conclusion that there was a reason why I hadn't listened to these CDs in many years. Impala is a good band, with impeccable musicianship, but their songwriting to my ears seems to be stuck a bit in the second gear. Many of their songs sound like they're missing the lead guitar. Great riffs and chord progressions, but no melody to speak of. I guess that's probably because they clearly have a strong rb background, and the groove seems to matter more than the melody. I'm sure that a lot of people will dig the hell out of that, but I like to hear a lead guitar playing a distinct melody on top of everything.

Impala are at their best as far as I'm concerned when they do the slow, super-moody, jazzy film-noir type tracks, like "Experiment To Terror/Stalkin'," which is brilliant. "What The Astronauts Drink" and "Hell Of A Woman" are also like that, and also awesome. These tracks let the sax take the lead, and thus have more of a melody. But they also showed how incredible Impala were at creating an atmosphere. The lead guitar player also got to show off his awesome chops and the fantastic Gretsch tone. (But for surf, "Anna Vienna" is pretty damn cool - they get it right on that one.)

I think of their three CDs I like "Kings Of the Strip", their second one, best. They reach an absolute pinnacle of that film-noir style with a song called "Nothing More Than Murder", which never fails to give me goosebumps. Another track, "Epilogue", is spy-jazz-surf done exactly the way it should be! As good as it gets. And they establish their surf cred with covers of "The Hearse" and "Penetration", and a great original surf tune, "Incident On 10th Floor." I'd definitely recommend tracking that one down. Their third one "Square Jungle" is probably my least favorite of the three, though you might enjoy it.

BTW, I think the lead guitarist was a dedicated Gretch hollow-body guy, rather than a Tele player.

anyway, thanks for the cool review! A lot of great nineties surf out there ready to be rediscovered....


IvanP | 19-Jul-2006 17:26:00 | Flag

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