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The Ventures
Surfin' To Baja

Review By Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
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The Ventures Surfin' To Baja

CD Number: Varese Sarabande


  Every track on the Ventures album Surfin' To Baja was recorded between 1992-2000, giving longtime fans a real treat to hear some tracks they may have missed over the years. Tracks previously only available on expensive Japanese imports are on this CD, including two generations of drummers with Mel and Leon Taylor.

When I think of The Ventures, the first names that come to mind are Bob Bogel and Don Wilson, the two remaining founding members. Gerry McGee came onboard after Nokie Edwards left (who still tours with the band in Japan) and Leon Taylor replaced his father Mel after his untimely passing. There are many other contributors in the studio that you do not hear about such as guitarists Bob Spalding, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, and longtime keyboard player David Carr. They all have become an important part of the band over the years, serving as unofficial members. People automatically associate this band with surf music because of album covers like this. Titles with the words Surfin' and Baja give that perception as well. The surf label has hung on to this great band like a bull terrier. What the title actually refers to is a cruise to Baja the band took. This is diverse instrumental rock, not one particular style of music, it never has been, so do not let stereotypes or images fool you.

Their legacy is strong and true to course, and it remains so to this very day as the boys are still delighting audiences worldwide. I would not consider myself a fanatic like the Japanese fans but I am darn close, I now have 50 CDs by this band, by far more than any other band, or perhaps I am an addict in denial. Will I continue to collect their music? You can count on it. You see, when you are a Ventures fan it is for life, and the interest never wanes.

Surfin' To Baja is an excellent collection spanning eight years covering the different configurations of the band as well as the many different influences and styles that they ventured into on their recordings. The 19 robust and crackling tracks will renew your appreciation for guitar-oriented music. "After Midnight In Shinjuko" I was familiar with (yes, I am one of those fans that buys those expensive imports), and every time I hear it I get chills. What a wonderful melody, and it is loaded with hooks that never let go. That is one example of many (19 actually) that you will enjoy. It is all here in one package…rock, blues, pop, R & B, country, the entire kit and caboodle.

I am so glad labels like Varese Sarabande have dealt with the overpriced import problem directly and made this great music available for an affordable price in America. I will never forget what renowned surf-instro critic Phil Dirt told me many years ago-"The Ventures are the consummate chameleons. Indeed they are, whether they are playing an original tune or a cover, they make it their own with a special sound and style(s) that nobody else has. Imagine Beethoven on Waikiki beach catching a wave? Who else could title a song "Beethoven Five-Oh!" and back it up with a direct reflection of the title in every note, I can think of only one band, the Godfathers of instro-rock The Ventures!




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