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VINE VOICEon 30 September 2008
Ace seem to dominate the market in pre-Beatle rock and roll and 'The Birth of Surf' shows their expertise. Carefully selected, these tracks are all from different bands, are presented in chronological order, and are accompanied by detailed track notes and plenty of photos. Surf is one of those odd genres that grows alongside mainstream pop and came at a time when the first flush of rock and roll had been flattened by a watered down version. Sometimes featuring three guitars or two basses and usually a sax or two, these bands are partly characterised by often being six or seven strong.

The title 'Birth of Surf' hints that 'surf' is an arbitrary tag, a suitable analogy nevertheless for a thrilling ride through what is basically rock instrumental music. Whereas The Shadows were supreme technicians with a stack of great melodies, these bands tended to sacrifice precision in favour of all-out assault. Even so, there are some beautifully-crafted tracks alongside the manic ones.

The first few tracks were probably recorded before the surf label existed. Significantly, they are mostly by artists who enjoyed mainstream hit success: Duane Eddy, Johnny & The Hurricanes, The Fireballs, The Ventures and Link Wray. Their influence on what followed is however clear. The obvious selections are all here too: 'Wipe Out', 'Pipeline' and the legendary Dick Dale's best-known track. Two further tracks that were resurrected for 'Pulp Fiction' are also included, but The Centurions and The Revels are not represented.

At first listen, many of the tracks sound much the same but on later hearing are nearly all are distinguished by something a little different. The Astronauts' percussive 'Baja' is especially impressive as is the helter skelter tempo whipped up by Eddie & The Showmen on 'Squad Car'. The latter band, incidentally, featured Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, later the brains behind The Turtles, on saxes. The album finishes with 'Surf Creature' a slow, spooky ramble years ahead of psychedelia.

I've played this album so much that I've begun to look for albums by the artists featured. I was surprised to find that at least half of them have been subjected to CD reissues or compilations. 'The Birth of Surf' is a collection of infectious and often imaginative music.
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I would caution anyone looking for surf instrumental music and flicking through albums on Amazon, to be very wary of compilations with "Surf" in the title. A goodly number of them, (a), will contain plenty of surf vocal music from the likes of Jan & dean, the Beach Boys, etc. - there's nothing wrong with these but they're probably not what you're looking for, and, (b) will have lots of instrumental music that may well be good but isn't from the surf bands. And surf instros WERE different; they weren't just like any other non-vocal rock music. That's not just muso snobbery - well it may be slightly - but the differences are there if you really listen.

Several sets I've looked at only hold a small percentage of real surf instro music.

This one is not like that at all. It's from Ace UK, a label you can trust. It calls itself "The Birth Of Surf" but actually it goes further than that. Contained herein are not only some of the important precursors of Surf, but also most of the best releases of the genre. The biggies that most people will know are all present - "Pipeline", "Wipe out" and "Miserlou". As well as these we get several from what many would regard as the next tier in popularity terms for the genre, the Pyramids "Penetration" - one of the few to hit the US Top Twenty, the Bel-Airs "Mr Moto" with its flamenco style instro, the Astronauts (from totally landlocked Boulder, Colorado) with the Lee Hazlewood penned "Baja", and the Lively Ones "Surf Rider" - this one penned by Nokie Edwards of the Ventures.

I find the selections chosen by Ace to illustrate the sounds that the West Coast bands took on board, of particular interest. The opener, Duane Eddy's "Ramrod" catches the legendary guitarist prior to settling down with his bass strings. On this one he's trebly and there's more edge than on most Eddy singles. Notable also is the interplay between Duane and second guitarist - Al Casey? - which was to become a regular feature on surf records. Johnny & the Hurricanes might seem an odd choice to anyone who only knows their late fifties, early sixties A sides which sometimes tended towards novelty, This track, "Crossfire", their 1959 debut, is unlike those (and it's more akin to several of their B sides). It has the rapid fire approach of some surf plus a rasping sax (from Johnny Paris) taking a melody line along with guitar - and there are more saxes than you might expect in surf, particularly taking a melody line rather than just riffing, or improvising.

I hadn't expected to see the Fireballs in this set but that busy popping sound that George Tomsco gets out of his axe in the second verse, could have come right out of a surf text book. The Gamblers "Moon Dawg" has often been called the first surf record; it's those pounding drums and the edgy guitar work that do it. I doubt whether anyone would have been surprised to see the Ventures in here, and Ace have (probably deliberately) managed to avoid either of the two obvious tracks. But "Lullaby of the leaves" has that rhythm, plus plenty of tremolo arm usage. A couple of tracks later and it's "Jack the Ripper" from you know who, and there's that throbbing beat again, this time against a minor key - another ploy used by the surfies to add the haunting melody effect.

There are other characteristics that appear in surf music - the single string usage by Dick Dale rather moving across the fretboard, the rapid descending sequence of "Pipeline", the occasional real surf noises, the Middle Eastern sound beloved by Dale, and more - but those picked up from these opening tracks give us a pretty good start.

With the intelligence and understanding used by the selector on the choice of lead-in tracks you know that the more obscure tracks here are going to be good, and they are. I didn't know several of these but I'm very pleased to have made their acquaintance.

This is by far the best single disc best-of on surf music that I've come across.
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on 23 July 2012
Anyone who enjoys guitar based music would appreciate this collection of songs! From the more well known tracks like Dick Dale & the Deltones 'Miserlou' (featured on Pulp Fiction' and Wipeout by the Surfaris to more obscure ones. One of my favourites is 'Squad Car' by Eddie & The Showmen :)

I always dismissed Surf music as a relic of days gone by and would only be appreciated by people older than me, but if you love rock and roll or play guitar yourself you'll love this
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on 12 July 2007
I've wanted a surf instrumental compilation for years, ever since i got the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
This contains several of the surf tracks from Pulp Fiction plus 20+ others and is a great CD.
Admittedly you could always argue that they are all a muchness of a muchness but there really isn't a bad track on it and if you just want a surf instrumental compilation you really can't go wrong with this one.
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on 23 July 2009
I heard some random surf instrumentals in a friends car and wanted to hear more. I took a chance on this and there really was no better choice!
The more you listen the more you hear, the guitar sounds are wonderful and the inlay notes are great with some excellent pictures. This cd did not leave my player for 3 weeks. There are some tracks you will of heard before (mostly in Pulp Fiction) but son you will know them all. Basically I like it very much!
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on 4 September 2015
For some reason Surf had passed me by until I heard Dick Dale playing miserlou on Later With Joolz which blew me away. Genius. I'd recommend this album to newcomers of Surf and those in the know who would still love this cross section of the incredible talent involved in this phenomenon.
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on 13 December 2015
This is very upbeat and a lot of fun. Short songs, the type of music you could probably get away with playing at a family event or perfect for a car journey. It has made me delve deeper into the era, as a long time music lover you can't go wrong, well worth every penny!
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on 13 June 2013
I've always liked the surf rock style but never really knew any particular bands so this is a perfect complication of good tracks to listen to. You can then pick any favourites out and look up the rest of their songs.
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on 15 June 2015
This is an absolute classic and showcased many groups I'd never heard of. As well as many well known surfing classics there are some great instrumentals and it is worth every penny.
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on 4 June 2010
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