The Super Stocks

The Complete Recordings

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The Super Stocks weren't a real band in the normal sense, but one of several studio creations put together by writer and producer Gary Usher as an outlet for the many surf and hot rod songs he was writing (often with Roger Christian) in the early 1960s. Using the so-called Wrecking Crew -- a loose-knit confederation of veteran L.A. session players that included drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye, sax player Steve Douglas, and future rock and pop stars Leon Russell and Glen Campbell -- Usher crafted and released three complete albums under the Super Stocks name in 1964: Thunder Road, Surf Route 101, and School Is a Drag. Taken as a trilogy, the three Super Stocks LPs form an interesting (if slightly cartoonish) look at a particular brand of California Americana, covering such teen-age infatuations as fast cars, high surf, and ditching school nearly as well as Brian Wilson was doing at the time with the Beach Boys. This double-disc box brings together all three albums, plus a group of bonus surf instrumentals that are actually a series of demo recordings put together by guitarist Richard Podolor. A lot of the songs here are on the silly side of things, but some of them zero in like lasers, sporting their own sly sort of gearhead logic. Songs like "Wide Track," "Wheel Man," "This Bike of Mine," and "The Ballad of Thunder Road" all drop the listener into the world of dragsters and stock cars, where staying shiny and fast are all that matters. There are surf songs here too, including a couple of lovely instrumentals, "Midnight Run" and "Malibu Blues." But perhaps the best songs are the ones dealing with life in high school, where school is treated as something resembling prison, and freedom is only granted at the ring of a bell. It is impossible to argue with the internal logic of "School Is a Drag," "School Bus Blues," or "Readin', Ridin', and Racin'," and the timeless nature of these tunes, which celebrate sunshine, waves and fast machines, and defines any sort of motion that puts wind in your hair as freedom, is as American as the concept of High Noon. Having all three Super Stocks albums in one set will thrill fans of the surf and hot rod genres, and for novice listeners, be prepared to enter an alternate America where the surf stays high and gas for your eliminator machine is not only affordable, it's downright cheap: A quarter gets you over the state line.

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