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Dan Standiford - basses, guitars, mandolin, hand-held percussion :: Michael Kramer - drums
Vitamin Records Catalog #: VIT-8884 - Release Date: 6/21/2005
JETPACK: SURFIN' TO NO DOUBT
Reviewed by: Wexler
Vitamin Records is the label responsible for those CDs of elevator music of TuPac and Kiss, among other questionable ideas. It seems that the bulk of their catalog consists of CDs where a small orchestra actually covers an entire existing CD in the same song order, as if the sheet music book for that CD were read and played from beginning to end. Vitamin refers to them as "tributes", but one wonders if the hired musicians know anything about the band they are covering.
One of the gems in their catalog is Surfin' to No Doubt, the inaugural CD in their new "surf" category. Instead of having general musicians cover the tunes using a surf beat or trying to approximate a surf band (like in laundry or diaper commercials) they had the insight to have a real surf band take on the project. They turned to Jetpack, whom had been opening act for the likes of Dick Dale and Gary Hoey, and had international exposure through MTV's Real World, ESPN, and The Sharper Image. Most importantly, Jetpack had experience doing a few "reimagined" covers on their own CD, Planet Reverb (Pascal Records).
Jetpack, who is Dan Standiford with the assistance of Michael Kramer, produced twelve tracks that make Surfin' to No Doubt a stellar surf album first and a No Doubt cover CD second. However, Dan states that he felt the integrity and identity of each song remain as No Doubt wrote them, so he did not edit any verses, change what keys they were played in, and so forth. This was aimed at the No Doubt fans, after all. It is also the reason the CD is lacking Vitamin's habitual inclusion of a new, original track "inspired by the music of" whatever band is being covered. It is an odd thing to have on a CD that is supposedly all covers. Dan asked to not have to write such a piece. Perhaps this is also the reason why Vitamin has not had Jetpack do any more CDs, leaving Surfin' to No Doubt the only CD in the "Surfin' To" series , which would be a shame if true. As such, it is a singular shining example of how to cover another band's material. Each track is vastly different than the original source material. Some stand-out examples are as follows...
Hey Baby is a fast swingin' big band inspired arrangement with four bar drum breaks and drum solo to boot. Being a "surf guitar" album, it's an interesting choice for Standiford to take a back seat and showcase drummer Kramer in the opening track.
Don't Speak trades ambient space rock verses with surf choruses and a note for note rendition of the song's solo. The fade out is haunting.
Just A Girl is shimmeringly slow in a 6/8 time signature, like so many oldies ballads, and includes a baritone guitar solo. A truly beautiful treatment.
Bathwater is a down and dirty, slow swingin', private eye number with Link Wray vibro amp effects and drums so heavy you'll think some jamoke sucker punched ya' in the gut, Johnny!
Spiderwebs is more Mexican Polka than country hoe-down with it's rhythmic "accordion" and features Spanish guitar and Mandolin, turning this No Doubt monster hit into a rootin' tootin' TV show theme like Bonanza.
Dan's arrangements never seemed forced - as if these versions could be the original incarnations. Other songs are played more straight forward, but with original touches, such as the 12 string playing the lead on Running and Simple Kind of Life or the fuzz bass on Sunday Morning and Don't Let Me Down.
Overall, the entire CD should please any No Doubt fan rather than appall them as "tributes" are oft to do. Guitar fans will enjoy playing spot-the-influence (Dick Dale, Link Wray, Bo Diddley, Roger McGuinn...) and the musicianship, which is top-shelf. As far as production, reverb junkies are assured to get their fix many, many times over with the Jetpack Twin Guitar Attack. Even the tambourine is drowning in reverb! Make no mistake - this is a very fine surf CD period, cover album or not, and should be snatched up by every surf enthusiast, even if they don't know Gwen Steffani from Gidget.
SONGS: Hey Baby Sunday Morning Don't Speak Just A Girl Simple Kind of Life Bathwater Don't Let Me Down Spiderwebs Running Ex Girlfriend Hella Good Underneath It All
CREDITS: Dan Standiford - basses, guitars, mandolin, hand-held percussion Michael Kramer - drums Bret Healy - package design Brian Chapman - mastering Greg Sanford - project coordinator