Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Bel-Airs - Volcanic Action (1961)

Band members

Paul Johnson (guitar)
Eddie Bertrand (guitar)
Richard Delvy (drums, replacing Dick Dodd)
Dick Dodd (drums)
Chas Stuart (saxophone)
Jim Roberts (piano)

One of the very first instrumental surf combos, this Southern California group recorded one of the first big regional surf hits, "Mr. Moto." Its heavily reverbed guitar lines, distinct Mexican melodic influence, and honking sax helped set the prototype for hundreds of songs that would be recorded in the next two to three years. None of the other material the group recorded in the early '60s was as successful or memorable. Guitarist Paul Johnson was still active decades later, while guitarist Eddie Bertrand went on to form the surf band Eddie & the Showmen.

01 Volcanic Action Bertrand 2:31 
02 Ramrod Casey, Casey 2:08 
03 Mr. Moto Delavey, Delvy, Johnson ... 2:10 
04 Vampire Delvy, Johnson, Tosh 3:07 
05 Peter Pistol Mancini 3:29 
06 Let's Go Trippin' Dale 2:21 
07 Wild One Appell, Greenan, Lowe, Lynott ... 2:44 
08 Panic Button Tomsco 2:49 
09 Yep Eddy, Hazelwood, Hazlewood 2:25 
10 Bedlam Johnson, Johnson, Johnson 4:24 
11 Chiflado Johnson 2:55 
12 Bulldog Tomsco 2:03 
13 Movin' and Groovin' Eddy, Hazlewood 2:18 
14 Runaway Crook, Shannon 2:33 
15 Ventures' Medley: Lullaby of the Leaves/Walk, Don't Run/Perfidia Dominguea, Leeds, Petkere 3:09 
16 Reveille Rock Conatser, King, Mack 2:34 
17 Kamikazee Johnson 2:24 
18 Little Brown Jug Winner, Winner 2:08 
19 Three Blind Christmas Mice Traditional 3:09 
20 Volcanic Action [alternate take] Bertrand 2:33 
21 Rampage Bertrand 2:25 
22 Squirt Bertrand, Fluke 2:17

Decades after their early-'60s existence, the Bel-Airs were a compilation-only band. Forty years later, Sundazed collected what they could and released a great collection of tracks by of the first instrumental surf bands. Volcanic Action! contains "Mr. Moto," their signature hit, as well as a take on the "Peter Gunn Theme" called "Peter Pistol." Plenty of nods to their contemporaries here, with covers of surf deities the Ventures and Dick Dale. While not quite as championed as those legendary acts, this Sundazed collection points out that flaw, revealing that these five SoCal lads could hold their own. Clean guitar lines, no bass, and the expert use of Chaz Stuart's masterful recorded saxophone set the Bel-Airs apart. A great reissue by Sundazed, a label proving themselves a match for '60s reissue albums alongside such titans as Rhino.

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