Straight out of the Cordelia Records laboratory comes the newest compilation dedicated to instrumental cover versions of well known ear catchers and chart hits played by the various instro and surf acts/projects from around the world. Remember the glorious Ventures' interpretations of '60s and '70s hits? The formula, "you only can win by playing a hot instrumental version of a song which is already a hit", also works well with the chart breakers, hits and classics of yesterday and tomorrow. What I'm trying to say is ... this comp is mighty fun! You don't have to be ashamed anymore when listening to Barbie Girl, Super Freak, Take on Me or all the other hits. An ear catcher is an ear catcher. Basta! Buy this CD or be bored forever (free interpretation on the slogan of the Amino Acids).
Please note that all artists of the CD are highly remarkable, as is the whole concept of the CD. Here are some thoughts about some (subjective) selected songs.
The first track on the CD is called My Favourite Things (a song from a musical) and it is played by the very professional and well sounding Swamp Coolers. The first thing I heard from The Swamp Coolers was their deep and exotic version of The Ventures' classic, Hawaii 5-0. (Check it out on the virtual surfguitar101 comp!!) So, what should I say? My Favourite Things comes up to the listeners expectations. It is a wonderful song, full of reverbed guitars and drama. The three quarter time beat, the decent tremolo rhythm guitar, the wooden xylophone (?) and the western feel in general. are going to make you press the replay button again and again ... Isn't it so? It is.
Track 2 is from the Spanish "mushroom" surfers, Los Derrumbes ... and what else could a band with such a sense of humor cover? Right, a song from The King himself, Viva Las Vegas. Forget the versions of that track, a la ZZ Top, and better listen to the peyote driven instro version of that gamblers hymn. Keep praying to the tiger-headed sex goddess, okay?
I was, and still am, a fan of the Norwegian pop trio, AHA. They wrote unforgetable hits like Hunting High and Low (cool name for a surf CD), Crying Wolf and, of course, Take on Me. It was one of the first video clips I watched and I still can recall my surprise when I first saw the cool black and white comic adventure. Do you remember that angry fireman who chases poor Morten Harket? One of the leading instro bands of today, The Bitch Boys, play Take on Me with all the spirit and energy of instrumental surf music, without any loss of the original feel of that chart breaker. It's simply a genius fusion of a brilliant 80s hit melody and sonically reverbed guitars played by a major surf combo. It sounds like the sun is rising up.
The Detonators ("Explosive Surf Music!") chose a Phil Spector monster hit from 1963, Then He Kissed Me, originally performed by the wonderful all girl trio, The Chrystals (Da Doo Ron Ron). Speaking of Phil Spector, all of those things that were written about him come to mind. It often looks like he could be a real figure straight out of the X-Files, with all the madness, guns and mystery. Spector's law affairs were a main reason for The Detonators to play Then He Kissed Me for Beyond the Sea. Phil Spector songs have a magic of their own, perhaps caused by the strange person of Spector himself. The Detonators keep that Spectorized magic alive in their refreshing and classic sounding instro interpretation, which makes that version a must in the collection of every modern high school dance DJ.
Mexican Whistler is a tune written by a man named Roger Whittaker. He is very famous in Germany for singing lightweight hits in the German language, with a heavy British accent. My first contact with his music was at a birthday party for my uncle. My parents presented him with an LP from Mr. Whittaker. The great Los Fantasticos' version of Mexican Whistler is a powerful and very cool arrangement of this Spanish flavoured track.
Kahuna Kawentzmann ... I was glad to see that the former mainman of the Looney Tunes is on the comp, too. I'm a fan of his outstanding instro album, The Tiki and the Guitar. There are so many various influences in his music, like Caribbean, soul, surf, easy listening and much more. So, on his interpretation of the all-time fave, Je t'aime, he uses a melodica (?) for the melody line. Harmonica? Yes, listen to some records of the great reggae artist and Dub Syndicate member, Dr. Augustus Pablo, and you know what it's all about with that sound. Needless to say that the production is as perfect as on The Tiki and the Guitar.
It's getting harder! Who could it be? Yes, it's Estrume'n'tal, the specialists when it comes to the mixture of surf and heavy guitars. And when I say heavy ... I mean Heavy Metal guitars. I'm not such a big Bob Marley fan, but I love this version of the Redemption Song a lot. Please note that Redemption Surf is taken from their current release, which features other cool cover versions, too (i.e. The Model).
Barbie Girl ... I can't believe it! I haven't heard the melody of that Euro chart breaker (Aqua) for years. Unbelievable ... I love this song, my girlfriend loves it, too (also the original, she told me). The melody is great, the instrumentation (including a vibraphone!) and the arrangement are too cool. Is it swing? Easy listening? Music to strip by? I don't know. All I have to say is, "Come on Barbie, lets go party..." ...by Fudge.
Yeah, a Hot Chocolate one. You don't have the chance NOT to groove with it when you are hear the first beats of that groooovy You Sexy Thing interpretation by Our Flying Saucer. Just listen to that pumping drum beat and the flirring bingo bongo sounds ... it's simply a winner. You like to impress a lady after a looong night at the disco? Take her to your cozy living room, dim the light and when you are in the kitchen mixing some groovy drinks, grab your remote control and play that song. I'm sure you will win her heart in seconds. "I believe in miracles..."
Hey, here comes my favourite song from that comp! Super Freak (by RNA) has a killer groove and a genius melody. The cheesy organ makes everyone go wild and hey, what can go wrong when a "star" like MC Hammer used that song for his smash hit, Can't Touch This. Right. Nothing. Dance! Dance! Play again!
Sponge Bob ... Okay, I love Sponge and his friends as much as I love the music. So, that sick version of The Sponge Bob Theme fits in the strange universe of Bikini Bottom. Monkey Versus Robot use some weird effects, like sampled (?) laughs and scary voices. The keyboard at the end reminds me of the music of the Lemmings PC game, you know the game where you could blast a Lemming with a bomb ... tick, tick...
The Astroglides, from Tel Aviv, well known for their crude surfcore sounds, are playing a long time movie favourite song here. The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob, a great tune with rich and very original instrumentation (surf, fuzz guitars, voices, xylophone, theremin...). Louis Defunes would go nuts to that track. I'm sure.
The Vivisectors, from Moscow, chose a real Monster Hit for Beyond the Sea Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall Part 2. It is a dark, very dark, interpretation of the track, played in the typical manner of The Vivisectors. Distorted echoing guitars, a stoic (electro) drum beat and a groove colder than iced wodka will make you shiver and fear. Cool ... aah, I mean cooled.
Hmm, here comes the dessert of the day. Our favourite instro bakers, The Muffin Mates, from the beautiful city of Kassel, Germany, serve us a smooth version of the Dusty Springfield hit, I Only Want to be With You. The ingredients ... hmm, lets see ... we have a happy organ, a delicious surf guitar and an easy rhythm section. Yummy! Also check out all the other tasty songs from their website.
Hey, it's the Chrome Czars, The Reluctant Aquanauts, playing a twangy version of the Ricky Nelson hit, Travelin' Man. The trio prooves again that they are keeping the sound and the spirit of early 60s twang and surf bands alive. I really love that deep and clean played Huntington Cads like guitar, the flirring melodies based on a typical 50s/60s groove and, of course, the great piano flicks. All in all, again a great track and (after The High Voltage Sounds of The Reluctant Aquanauts CD) another step towards reverb accolade. Bravo.
Dance of the King of the World of Maya Oh, man, what is that for an crazy undertaking to do a cover version of a Mahavishnu Orchestra AND a Steely Dan song? It's weird, weird, weird ... and the best of all ... it works! A square rhythm meets steel guitars, meets a surf beat, meets distorted solo guitars a la Ween, meets beautiful melodies ... the list seems upgradeable ... wow! The band/project who was brave enough to do an eight+ minute cover version of that tracks is called, Pegleg.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this your captain speaking ... we are now crossing the lazy shores of Chiller Island ... please note that your favourite exotica instrumental combo is playing just for YOU tonight ... here are The Cocktail Preachers. Difficult to say something critical about that lazy Cocktail Preachers' version of the all-time fave, Blue Velvet, so I better shout my mouth, grab another well tempered "Cocktail" and keep listening to the sweet, sweet sounds. Cheers, gentlemen.
The last two numbers are played by two bands who are a class of their own. Let's start with the lords of instrumental weirdness, The Thurston Lava Tube. They are well known for their good taste when choosing cover versions (I Am the Walrus, etc.). So, this time The Thurston Lava Tube covers a real monster hit, Bohemian Rhapsody. It is a monster hit in two ways. It was two times No.1 in the UK charts (1975 and 1991) and it's a monster hit because of the strange mini opera arrangement. You think it's an impossible mission to cover such a track? Oops, you are wrong. So, you need four cool musicians, a lot of humor, some strange instruments, such as the Elka X-705 organ, and the talent to rearrange such a mini opera into an instrumental track. Seems easy, but hey, you must be a real expert to start and accomplish such a mad mission. Just listen to that psyched out cheesy organ in the middle/main part, where the organ plays all of the "mama mia, mama mia" question/answer parts, underlayed with a march rhythm produced by the organ's internal drum machine. Or have you recognized that boss surf guitar doing the "mercury"? Not to mention the "samples" (coes, sirenes, crashing glass...). All in all, one sentence to say: Folks ... that's the high art of entertainment.
The other band I mentioned above is San Francisco's very own Aquamarines playing Beyond the Sea. Needless to say that they are masters in reverberated, razor sharp surf music. I mean, they graduated The School of Reverb with a mark A. With their clanging reverbed lead guitar, the shuffling drumbeat (and the drum fills, of course), the walking bass and the echoing rhythm guitar, the title track of the compilation sounds like the ultimate aggregate of bands ... like The Spootnicks or The Shadows. A perfect ending for such a diversified and entertaining instrumental compilation.
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