The recently reconstituted Anthology Recordings—which began about a decade ago as a digital-only reissue label—announced its rebirth late last year, with a handful of vinyl releases of obscurities. What made the announcement even more interesting is that the label would launch a series of surf records, with the first two being soundtracks to two early 1970s surf films. Not fictional films, per se, but more like heady tributes to the activity and its practitioners. Now, when one says, “psychedelic surf” one might be tempted to think of Jimi Hendrix channeling Dick Dale. That’s wrong. These two albums are mellow, singer-songwriter albums with occasional moments of funkiness and jazzy interludes—all with a very earthy, back-to-nature vibe. It’s much more fitting an appropriate than it might initially seem.
The first in the series is Morning Of The Earth, a trippy film about the surf experience, containing a number of songs from different songwriters. Brian Cadd’s songs are mostly jaunty, happy, upbeat rockers; “Sure Feels Good” and “Making It On Your Own” offer a wonderful blend of Randy Newman/Warren Zevon fare. Aside from “First Things First,” a Neil Young-like ballad, “Bali Waters” is a quiet, jazzy instrumental passages that would have made wonderful “Local on the Eights” segues, while “Sea the Swells” is a funky groove that excellently replicates the feel of rushing waves. The winner here, though, is G. Wayne Thomas. His three songs are impressive, breathtaking; the title track, an impressive baroque number, finds him singing in front of a female choir and a full orchestra in such a way that is downright haunting. “Open Up Your Heart” is a ballad with a catchy refrain, as is “Day Comes,” both sung with an angelic voice and a perfect piano accompaniment.
Crystal Voyager appeared in 1973, and this time is composed entirely by G. Wayne Thomas. After the three satisfying numbers on Morning Of The Earth, it’s nice to hear more from this relatively unknown talent. Much like its predecessor, the music here is low-key singer-songwriter fare, and it’s all the better for it. Simple arrangements serve the heartfelt lyrics well, such as the two takes of “Changes” and “Into The Blue.” But Thomas isn’t afraid to get funky, and when he does, on “Junkyard 1&2,” “Morning Light,” and “Gypsy Shoes,” it’s a real pity that Thomas didn’t see wider success with his fun, funky, AM-friendly rock.
If there’s one flaw to be found here, it’s that both soundtracks don’t include the films! Hard to find and out of print for years, a search of the internets will turn up clips of both, and it’s clear that both films deserve the same sort of loving care in release. That aside, these two records are fine, lovely collections of some great early 70s soft rock, and here’s to more interesting discoveries from the Anthology Surf series!