|Surf City Allstar Band - I Get Surround|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Monday, 13 December 2004|
One of the things that California will always be known for is the sound of surf music. It was the soundtrack of the ‘60s and even though The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Motown are what’s remembered most from ‘60s music, surf music was one of the decade’s best sellers. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Ventures and Dick Dale have all made their mark on rock ‘n’ roll.
The harmonies alone in Surf Music were enough to leave a lasting impression on a generation of songwriters and arrangers. Not only did it have those exquisite harmonies, the genre also gave birth to a series of great guitar players. The previously mentioned Dick Dale and The Ventures, as well as Glen Campbell (yes, that Glen Campbell!), are only some of those who would be considered the best at the surf sound.
One distinctive thing about surf music is its timeless quality to transport you back to a certain place and time. This could also be its greatest hindrance (depending on your view), because even though it’s 45 years later, the surf genre really hasn’t changed much at all in its sound. Tons of reverb along with Fender Stratocasters and Fender Jaguars are its basis and its backbone. Add echoes of Peter Gunn and you almost have all you need to start playing surf music. Without Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, you might not have Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles (Brian Wilson was influenced by Rubber Soul and Revolver, Paul McCartney by Pet Sounds). Frank Zappa use to throw in all sort of surf motifs into The Mothers of Invention music so you can see that it really did help influence what we hear today, as well as having a major impact on what we’ve all heard previously.
The Surf City Allstar Band was originally the back-up band for Jan and Dean while they were still touring, but once Jan Berry’s health declined to the point where he couldn’t tour anymore, they became The Surf City Allstar Band with Dean Torrence as its leader and front man. The Surf City Allstar Band is a group of talented musicians that knows its surf music and history inside and out. With this release, they get some outside help from session guitarist extraordinaire Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. His work with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers is probably the most recognized of his illustrious career.
So what about this release? Well, this disc comes in two different formats: a DVD video that lets you go between the “audience” and “stage” mix and a DVD-Audio flip side that gives you the “stage” mix in 5.1. After watching this disc, I would suggest that you listen to the DVD-A side, since there really isn’t anything to see on the video side. This disc was recorded in the Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School for Performing Arts, but there is no audience, so the “live” aspect is purely in the sense of the performance; it’s not a concert. I wish it was a concert setting, since this release is pretty dry to watch. After awhile, I found myself being bored with the performances, not musically but visually. There is really no reason to watch unless you like watching musicians sit and play. The mix itself tends to be a little bright for my tastes, with the drums being pushed too far back in the mix. I also couldn’t really tell much difference between the “audience” and the “stage” mix, although I tend to favor the DTS format.
While the playing on this DVD is all topnotch, the song selection on this disc isn’t what you’d really expect. I guess I was expecting a disc full of surf classics. While there are a few classics here – “Surf City,” “Sloop John B” and “More Than Yesterday” – most of the songs are originals written by members of The Surf City Allstar Band. It’s not like there’s a bad song on this disc, but I did want to hear more of the timeless tunes that I grew up with. The musical highlights for me were “Discovery,” “Surf City,” “Sloop John B,” “California Sleepwalking,” “Paulding Light” and “Apache.” “Apache” has a blistering solo by Skunk Baxter which for me was the best track on the disc. The surf genre itself is a time-tested success, but one that really doesn’t have any surprises nor any real variety (to me, at least). I’ve always respected it, but never truly embraced the art form. This being said, if you are a fan of surf music, I would heartily recommend this disc for all the history that it encompasses. There are several interviews with Torrence and his insights and historical knowledge of the California music scene in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s are really quite fascinating. There are also commentaries on a number of the songs that will give you insight into the songs and how they were written, but as I wrote earlier, I just wish there were more surf classic tracks. Surf’s up!