Various Artists

The Search for Surf

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Just because something has a lot of twangy guitar doesn't mean it's a surf record, and that's the sticky problem with this collection of vintage rock sides. There is a whole lot of quality surf music on The Search for Surf, including a big stack of vintage Dick Dale sides, including the epochal "Miserlou," "Shake-N-Stomp," and "Jungle Fever," as well as acknowledged surf classics such as the Bel-Airs' "Mr. Moto," the Chantays' "Pipeline," and "Church Key" by the Revels. But there are also a number of tunes here that are pretty great, but certainly not surf music -- "Nameless" by the Rockin' Rs is a cool instrumental with lots of guitar raunch, but it doesn't sound the least bit surf-like, while "Erstroncio 90" by Los Locos del Ritmo feels more like a Duane Eddy tribute than anything else, and Rhet Stoller's "Chariot" could pass for Jorgen Ingmann and his guitar, whose "Apache" was one of the all-time great esoteric guitar instrumentals. The compilers of this disc know a good tune when they hear one (with the exception of the version of "Surfer's Stomp" by Kay Bell & the Tuffs, which unwittingly proves the old adage that the best surf tunes were instrumentals), but it seems they're a little fuzzy on the whole notion of what constitutes a surf record. Call this a collection of great guitar instrumentals and the Truth in Advertising issues are swept away; correct the numerous spelling and punctuation errors in the liner notes and it gets even better. Surf fanatics should be advised about the impurities in the ingredients, but from a sheer listenability standpoint, The Search for Surf is seriously good fun.

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