Various Artists

Surf City: The California Sound

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The reason Surf City works as a good compilation is that it features examples of both the instrumental surf rock and the more radio friendly surf pop of the early '60s. The companion book issued with the CD is a phenomenal account of the style's history. Beginning with a brief look at the culture of white middle class society in southern California, the book shifts its focus to rather lengthy biographies of the genre's most prolific artists. It shows how the major players, like Dick Dale and the Beach Boys, were manipulated by record companies. The biography of the Beach Boys actually spends most of the time focusing on how the group was closely controlled rather than giving a blow by blow account of their career. The most disturbing bit of the groups history is the account of how Murry Wilson, Dennis, Brian, and Carl's father, set up his own publishing company and stole the rights to the music, selling them in 1969. In addition to the major biographies, the book contains brief inserts about various aspects of the scene, including surfing lingo, lesser known bands, skateboarding songs, and the Wrecking Crew, a group of session musicians who are featured on most of the hits of this period. This CD and book provide an excellent introduction to the genre and dispels some of the myths that this era of American music was absurdly wholesome.

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