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.
The sound is very much Eleki – the Japanese instrumental surf sound of the mid-sixties. Eleki is more melodic and complex than the typical surf song, and requires more guitar technique. The eleki guitar style sounds like DD meets Nokie – heavily reverbed, somewhat overdriven and aggressive, with lots of pull-offs and hammer-ons and wild, extreme bends. And Sammy has totally mastered it. The guy is a monster guitarist. I bet you he could go head-to-head with Shigeo of the Surf Coasters and completely hold his own. Truly awesome chops, best demonstrated in the closing song Tsugaru Jyongarabushi, which is (after the short main theme) mostly a one-chord vamp with Sammy just going OFF. Most of the songs also have either an additional rhythm guitar or organ (or both), which definitely fills out the sound very nicely. As far as the other two members, the drumming is serviceable if not outstanding, and the bass playing is pretty good, sometimes adding some very cool parts. But what really matters is the songs, songs, songs, and this is where Wild Sammy & the Royaltones excel. There are no songwriting credits, but I think only a couple of the songs are covers of classic eleki (The L.A. and maybe Wild Jet Beach – both really awesome, very tough-sounding), with the rest being originals. Among those, Echo Rocket 66, Wild Datsun, Royal Tones No. 1, Aoi Hoshikuzu and Eleki Heiankyou really stand out, incredible stuff. But hell, every song on the CD offers something really cool. I highly recommend you all pick up this release. All the tradheads will LOVE it, and even the more prog-types may be able to get into more than a few of the songs. (I got both this and the Surfaris CD I reviewed before on Amazon.com)