Merrell Fankhauser And The Exiles, The Velvetones, and Fapardokly "The Lost Desert Tapes" (Ocean Records, 2014)
Since the early sixties, Merrell Fankhauser has been cranking out a steady stream of exceptional music, encompassing everything from surf rock instrumentals to pop to folk rock to psychedelia to progressive rock to space rock and just good old rock and roll. Last year, the internationally revered singer, songwriter, guitarist, and 2011 Grammy Nominee received a call from Mac MacArthur, the son of Glenn MacArthur, who ran the Glenn label, which was home to a number of Southern California groups in the late fifties and sixties. Mac informed Merrell he was combing through the archives and asked if he wanted the master tapes he discovered amid the digging. Merrell had forgotten all about these recordings, which never transpired onto vinyl, and readily accepted Mac's offer. And that is how "The Lost Desert Tapes" came to be.
The tracks by Merrell's bands, Merrell And The Exiles and Fapardokly, were recorded between the years 1964 and 1966. A Chuck Berry styled rouser, "Make It Back To Memphis," is punctured with girly squeals, giving the song a live feel, where "13th Child" crackles to a primitive garage rock pose, and "Love Only You," and "You've Been Untrue," are sliced of pure pop applications indebted to the harmonious guitar pop of Buddy Holly, the Beatles, and the Beau Brummels. Fapardokly's "The Music Scene" is a different version than the one featured on the band's classic self-titled album, as this cut includes a spoken word introduction. An astute commentary on the biz, the song articulates how tough it is for bands to get a break and even if success and stardom is attained, there is a price to pay. Buoyed by a sparkling folk rock polish, "The Music Scene" cribs visible cues from both the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield.
A relatively unknown group, the Velvetones are also presented on the set. Shaking with manic energy, there's the frat rock fashioned "Fuzzy Wuzzy," while the rest of the band's material are instrumentals combining surf rhythms with rather exotically raw edges. "On The Beach," "Velvet Stroll," "Moon Shadows," and the fast paced "Gerico" portray the band's youthful charm and exuberance to lasting effects.
Not only is "The Desert Tapes" a nice memento for Merrell Fankhauser's many fans, but it further checks in as a nifty document of a certain time and place. A must have for those in thrall to largely pre-British Invasion sounds, the historic collection sells for $18 and can be ordered from Ocean Records, PO Box 1504, Arroyo Grande, CA 93421.
Review made by Beverly Paterson/2014
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