The Mermen - The Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Bryan Dailey   
Tuesday, 20 June 2000

The Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show
Mesa/Blue Moon Records, 2000
  Performance 8 | Sound 8 |

Here is an album that showed up recently in the mailbox with no accompanying press notes or bio information. This meant that the music was going to have to speak for itself. The sensitive New Age cover art led me to believe that this album was going to be full of soft synthesizer-based instrumental music. Although the music on this CD is all instrumental, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is primarily surf guitar music. This makes perfect sense for a band with a name like The Mermen.

This isn’t the Dick Dale burning-fast variety of surf guitar. It’s a more laid-back sound that makes for great background music when you are bored with your tired old jazz CDs. Filled with memorable melodies and a few psychedelic moments ala Jimi Hendrix, and even a touch of Latin-inspired rhythms, there is something for almost everyone on ‘The Amazing California Health and Happiness Roadshow.’ Fans of classic rock will be happy to know that they do turn up the volume and rock in a few places on the album.

The musicians in The Mermen are very talented, and it’s refreshing to hear performers of this caliber who paint musical pictures without feeling the need to indulge in endless solos. The songs on this album have form and structure, but are not so rigid as to be overly predictable. The use of unique instruments adds an amazing sense of depth to the recording. Usually, when I hear a sitar on an album, it makes me think of the Ravi Shankar-inspired George Harrison Beatles songs that make me run to the CD player to hit the "skip" button. The Mermen use sitar in various moments throughout this album, but not in a way that calls too much attention to itself. Instead, hey use the sitar more as another color in their aural canvas. Flutes, autoharps, congas, Djembe drums and sarods are just a few of the other instruments that add to the unusual sound of this album.

From a sonic standpoint, I have no complaints about this CD. It is recorded very well and sounds great on a variety of systems. The dynamic range is excellent and the instruments have a very natural sound. Co-producers and mixing engineers Johannes Luley and Jim Thomas tastefully combine standard mixing techniques with some unconventional methods that give the album a polished feel, without being so obvious that they detract from the musicians’ performances. In other words, everyone here knows when to step aside and let the music speak for itself. If you are looking for a CD that has a new sound, the Mermen’s ‘The Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show’ could be the CD for you.

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