With a 40-year recording history, the Ventures are the most successful instrumental band in pop history. Although their heyday in the U.S. was in the early '60s, peaking with the surf music craze, they have continued to have hits abroad, particularly in Japan, where their summer tours are legendary events. A lot of the Ventures' releases have been specific to the Japanese market, and Surfin' to Baja draws on that backlist, collecting 19 originals by the band, and although these recordings were tracked at various times between 1992 and 2000, they fit together seamlessly. Half the cuts here feature original drummer Mel Taylor. Taylor died in 1996, and his son Leon Taylor stepped in at the kit, and is spotlighted on the remaining tracks. Highlights here include the delightful opening romp, "Santa Cruz," "Zonked," "Open for Business," "Snows of Nagano," and "Skunk Rock," which features guest lead guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. "Beethoven Five-Oh!" combines Beethoven with the thunder of the Ventures' 1969 hit, "Hawaii Five-O," and while it gets a little cheesy, there is no denying its infectious appeal. Fans of the group will find this collection delightful, while the unconverted will undoubtedly remain that way.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett