Although it's called The Birth of Surf, this 26-track compilation could actually be titled The Best of Surf. It includes all three of the major instrumental surf hits of the early '60s (there really were only three!) -- the Surfaris' "Wipe Out," the Chantays' "Pipeline," and the Pyramids' "Penetration" -- as well as a big wave of tracks that might have only seen regional action or flopped, but have since become highly regarded by historians and collectors, like Dick Dale's "Miserlou," the Astronauts' "Baja," the Gamblers' "Moon Dawg," and the Bel-Airs' "Mr. Moto." There is also a bunch of cuts by instrumental rockers that might not have been usually (or ever) classified as surf artists, but who were mighty influential on surf music, as heard on Duane Eddy's "Ramrod," Johnny & the Hurricanes' "Crossfire," Link Wray's "Jack the Ripper," the Fireballs' "Bulldog," and the Ventures' "Walk Don't Run"-like "Lullaby of the Leaves." While the rest of the names might not be as familiar outside of surf music specialists, there are plenty of hot instrumentals here with the reverbed guitar, cool insistent beats, and mysterious melodies that were surf's trademarks. Some of those lesser-known songs are almost as good as the more famous tunes here, and nothing is mediocre. Sure, knowledgeable surf music listeners will note the absence of some superb cult favorites, many of which can be heard on other top surf comps like Cowabunga! The Surf Box, Guitar Player Presents Legends of Guitar: Surf, Vol. 1, and Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 5: Surf. This still makes one of the top single-disc introductions/overviews of surf music, enhanced with expert track-by-track annotation.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger