Annette Funicello

Annette's Beach Party

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Lord only knows what Walt Disney -- who resisted Annette Funicello's involvement in the American International Pictures "Beach Party" movies, until he was very reluctantly persuaded otherwise -- thought of this record coming out from his own record label. But its title and cover alone make it something akin to the perennial bad penny that keeps turning up on surf music lists. And in the context of surf music albums, or girl group style recordings, Annette's Beach Party isn't a heavyweight contender, mostly because it's neither fish nor fowl. The basic problem is that by-the-numbers rockers like "Don't Stop Now" (featuring some great fuzzed out guitar) share space with third-rate songs such as "Swingin' and Surfin'," cooing teen pop like "Treat Him Nicely," which resembles the filler on Connie Francis records of the previous decade, the grotesquely bad "Date Night in Hawaii," and adult-style pop such as "Song of the Islands" (one realizes that Funicello was trying to show how adult she was, but did she have to sound like she was 50?). But then thrown in the middle of all of that serviceable surf, traditional vocal pop, and teen pop is a neat hook-laden number like "Promise Me Anything" -- which is still teen pop, but so well produced, complete with a restrained string section and call-and-response lead vocal and chorus; and a pretty good cover of "California Sun," to boot, and a not bad surf music parody called "Battle of San Onofre" which, with its choruses and guitar break, anticipates elements of the sound that would make Ennio Morricone famous a year later. To its credit, Annette's Beach Party is a concept album of sorts, with a couple of quasi-unifying tracks -- she and her producer were obviously trying for something along the lines of what Sinatra was doing with his LPs -- and there are obviously great players here (want to bet that Hal Blaine is playing the tom-toms and other percussion on "Battle of Son Onofre"?). On the down side, the record tries to straddle too many styles too many ways, but for its best moments it's worth owning, as long as one doesn't expect too many great things from it.

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