Various Artists

Board Boogie: Surf'n Twang from Down Under

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Australia had a very active instrumental surf music scene in the early to mid-'60s, though with the marginal exception of the Atlantics, none of that music has gotten even small international attention. This 30-song compilation of 1962-1965 instrumental surf cuts (with one track sneaking in from 1967) is wholly drawn from the vaults of Australia's biggest independent label of the time, Festival Records. Perhaps because of that limitation, this might not be the ideal overview of the Australian surf genre; the Atlantics, for instance, are not represented. But on the whole it's a good job as the first internationally available Australian surf compilation reissue, though like many instrumental-only comps, those not enamored of the genre itself might find it too much of a good thing for more than an hour at a time. The differences between Australian instrumental surf rock and the California/American variety aren't easy to finger. But generally speaking, Australian groups were far more influenced by the twangy, country-tinged reverb spook of the Shadows, with a somewhat lighter and more precise approach, though it wasn't always lighter and never lacked energy. Thankfully, the compilation emphasizes original material rather than covers of foreign tunes. The results range from good to generic, with occasional harder mid-'60s rock influences from abroad making their way into the picture, as on the Sunsets' "Windansea" (which has a definite Lonnie Mack flavor to some of the riffs) and the Playboys' "The Mean One." It makes a nice change of pace for the surf collector looking for something a little different, though it isn't among the very best vintage surf reissues. The token future big name that can often be found in the small print on such anthologies is future Bee Gees guitarist Vince Melouney, who played with both the Aztecs and the Vibratones.

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