Various Artists

The Birth of Surf, Vol. 2

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Like the first volume of this series on Ace Records, this might not be the very best surf rock compilation, but should be on the short list for anyone looking for the very best such anthologies once you get past the most obvious ones. The 26 tracks do have a couple big hits, the Ventures' "Walk, Don't Run" and the Rockin' Rebels' "Wild Weekend," both of which might have been more properly categorized as influences on surf music rather than genuine surf tunes. But most of these are not common fare even on surf compilations; even the selections by well-known artists (Dick Dale, the Surfaris, the Chantays, the Trashmen, Bobby Fuller, the Astronauts, the Pyramids) aren't their most famous songs. Some of these might verge on enjoyable background music depending on your taste, but overall this is heavy on surf's best distinguishing traits -- haunting melodies, reverb guitar picking, lean brisk rhythms -- while maintaining a good amount of variety. And although surf music is primarily a Southern Californian phenomenon, with many of the bands here coming from that region, the CD also represents artists from various other corners of the country who plugged into the sound. Occasionally a particularly dynamite track leaps to the fore, and while again this will vary according to individual tastes, the Chantays certainly excel at projecting surf's darker moods on "Monsoon"; the Scarlets' furiously bopping "Stampede," cut in New York in 1959, illustrates how primordial surf was being waxed far from the West Coast even before the '60s; and the Vy-Dels' "Unknown" -- from 1965, which was pretty late in the game for surf's prime -- crackles with atmosphere. By far the most surprising name here, although his presence won't surprise longtime surf enthusiasts, is Jim Messina, who plays lead guitar with the Jesters on his 1964 instrumental "The Thing."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
2 1:56
3 1:59
4 2:03
5 2:15
6 2:32
7 3:00
8 2:16
9 2:04
10 2:20
11 1:54
12 2:25
13 2:11
14 2:05
15 2:35
16 1:57
19 2:01
20 2:51
21 2:20
22 2:07
23 2:27
24 2:24
26 2:52
blue highlight denotes track pick