Various Artists

Surfbeat Behind the Iron Curtain, Vol. 1

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Just when you think you've heard it all, along comes this compilation of '60s surf/instrumental rock from behind the Iron Curtain -- a scene that was barely even known to have existed, and whose bands were rarely given the opportunity to even record. Actually, the title is a bit of a misnomer, as 11 of the 24 tracks are actually from non-Communist countries, including West Germany, Japan, Italy, Holland, and the U.K. It's all still damn rare stuff, and surprisingly good, especially when you consider that when the Iron Curtain bands recorded, they usually had to do so on state-owned labels. This nonetheless holds up pretty well against the better instrumental guitar rock from the era, and is not so much influenced by surf music as by the Ventures, the Shadows, and the Tornados. The production (particularly for the Eastern European bands) can be primitive, but the playing can be hot, especially from the Japanese T. Terauchi, the East German Die Sputniks, and the Romanian Sincron. Acts from Poland and Czechoslovakia are also represented; the Czech Slava Kunst Orchestra has to be the weirdest (and most ridiculous) of the lot, with their berserk hybrid of twist rock, nonsense vocals, and wedding dance-band music. That track aside, this is actually a respectable compilation that's not solely of novelty value.

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