Surfing Jamaica on Television
Trio of comps and re-releases make snazzy stocking-stuffers
Sundazed Records' three-volume Lost Legends of Surf Guitar washes ashore a tidal wave of freshly uncovered instrumental guitar treasures, each reverberating with its own ocean-side charm.
Although some of this material was technically available before, quantities and distribution were solimited that the bulk hasn't been heard in 30 years. Among the previously unreleased numbers is the Ebb Tides' "Big Noise from Waimea" on Vol. I. The song is an exercise in savage tribal drums, wild native shouts, honking saxophone and deeply resonant baritone guitar pounding out a Mission: Impossible-style rhythm. Vol. III showcases "un-issued" gems by Thom Starr & the Galaxies, but the brightest tiki torches burn on Vol. II. The standout disc features tunes recently uncovered from the Surfaris' mysteriously lost 1963 session as well as the searing double-picked scorcher "Sheriff of Noddingham" by David Marks, the guitarist booted from the Beach Boys after a run-in with the Wilson brothers' dad.
Recorded in various small independent studios between 1962 and 1964, these perfectly preserved tracks actually benefit from the simple three-track mono technology of the era — though they have been remastered for CD. Sundazed's enticing package art features reproductions of the original indie singles' center papers and labels from dusty session-tape boxes.
Liner notes by various musicologists (including John Blair of the Nightriders) and artist interviews put these nuggets in historical context. Not to be missed are the Trashmen's memories of shooting the Surfin' Bird LP cover, and the Tornadoes' recollections of their studio sessions, engineered by a young Frank Zappa. — Gregory Nicoll
Jimmy Cliff enjoyed moderate British success with such reggae-pop tunes as the cheery, string-enhanced "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" and the topical "Viet Nam" — "the best protest song ever written," according to Bob Dylan. His perseverance also landed him a starring role in the low-budget film The Harder They Come.
The movie's soundtrack, featuring such non-reggae classics as the yearning "Many Rivers to Cross" and the pensive folk ballad "Sitting in Limbo" finally put Cliff on the international map. Yet with his instantly identifiable tenor voice and a knack for writing hooky, uplifting songs, Cliff has remained a star longer than any other Jamaican musician. He wasn't shy about his pop influences, but he never relied on them exclusively either.
This is clear over the course Anthology, 42 tracks spread over two chronologically arranged discs. The set follows the musician's career, from his first tentative singles in 1962, through 1993's cover of "I Can See Clearly Now." Not surprisingly, the collection is top-heavy with Cliff's most influential '70s work, allotting just five tracks to his last decade.
Cliff's remarkable voice, literate songwriting and serene self- confidence redeem the slick over-production and oft-dodgy stylistic choices. "You'll succeed at last," concludes the chorus to "You Can Get It ...". And indeed he has. — Hal Horowitz
I used to wear a Television T-shirt that was black, with the band's name emblazoned in bold white letters above a reproduction of their Adventure album cover. It provoked stares and questions. "Television ... what?" was the most popular. Twenty-five years later, the shirt is gone, but the questions remain.
Maybe the upgrading of its first two releases will revive interest in the music that remains as gnarled, daring and intense as anything that exploded out of the late-'70s New York City punk scene.
Piloted by Tom Verlaine's strangulated voice, riveting guitar, winding riff-based songs and poetically obtuse lyrics of paranoia and despair, their sound was thought-provoking and edgy. Along with second guitarist Richard Lloyd, the punk outfit reveled in complex, stinging, occasionally extended guitar duels informed by both John Coltrane and the Allman Brothers, yet totally disconnected from either jazz or blues.
Often cited as one of the most under- appreciated rock debuts, 1977's Marquee Moon is still chilling. The album was the culmination of three years of playing nightly — and sounds it, with crackling band interplay that never seems forced. The first CD appearance of "Little Johnny Jewel," Television's auspicious and rare first single, caps an already vital album.
Its follow-up was bound to pale in comparison. But with more succinct songs like "Glory," "Foxhole" and "Ain't That Nothin'," it's nearly as stunning as its predecessor.
Both reissues boast re-mastered audio, alternate tracks and classy packaging with rare pictures and lengthy essays featuring band interviews. They will hopefully expose a new generation to an essential but frustratingly obscure group whose legacy is far more durable and resilient than that T-shirt ever was. — Hal Horowitz