Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Lively Ones - Surf Drums (1963)


One of the best of the many instrumental surf bands working the Southern California region in 1963, the Lively Ones made recordings built around storming, reverb-drenched Fender guitars embellished by occasional raunchy sax breaks. Originality was not the Lively Ones' forte; over a period of about 12 months, they ground out about five albums, filled out with many covers or retitled numbers based on other rock and R&B compositions. They had a couple of hits in the L.A. area in 1963 ("Surf Rider" and "Rik-A-Tik"), but their best moment was probably "Goofy Foot," whose staccato gunfire of riffs deservedly propelled the track onto several modern best-of-surf anthologies. They ranged far and wide for source material, giving the surf treatment to "Telstar," "Exodus," "Rawhide," and Cole Porter's "Night and Day." Even the overdone standards are arranged and executed with panache. One best-of compilation is all you need, but anyone who likes Dick Dale will dig the Lively Ones' similar sleek arrangements and prototypically twangy, classy surf guitar leads.


The second Lively Ones long-player, Surf Drums (1963), was compiled in much the same way their debut had been created, comparable to the vast majority of rush-released platters of the era. Del-Fi Records owner Bob Keane collected a few of the band's previous singles alongside a variety of already established covers, many of which were concurrent hits for other artists. The instrumental quintet had gained a sizable name for themselves in and around the Orange County, CA, scene, scoring regionally on covers of the Ventures' dynamic "Spudnik" and the Fireballs' effervescent "Rik-A-Tic." The album opens up with a remake of Duane Eddy's mid-tempo, ambling "40 Miles Bad Road." The track is the perfect vehicle for Jim Masoner (guitar) and Joel Willenbring (sax), whose collaborations became an integral ingredient not only in the Lively Ones' sound, but helped to separate them from the plethora of similar units. Providing support for the soloists and rounding out the personnel are solid contributions from Ed Chiaverini (guitar), Ron Griffith (bass), and Tim Fitzpatrick (drums). Despite the dearth of original compositions, the aggregate muscle through some choice overhauls of genre favorites, most notably the soulful strut of the Rockin' Rebels' "Wild Weekend," the high-energy yakety sax on the Belairs' "Mr. Moto" and the analogous rearrangement of "Tuff Surf," an R&B entry from the relatively obscure Nobel Watts. [Surf Drums was reissued and paired with Surf Rider! on a two-fer CD from Collectors' Choice Music in 2004.]



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