Turn Up The Sun - Dom Mariani and The Majestic Kelp (Head Records)
Star billing for Mr Mariani in the band name these days is no surprise. He's been leading this diverse and floating crew for years and they've never failed to deliver on a promise of broadening the limited palette of traditional surf music. Putting Dom's moniker on the cover won't hurt sales and most of the playing is his own work.
It's been said before about the Kelp but it's worth underlining: If you're expecting screaming guitars or Davie Allan and The Arrows-like distortion, look elsewhere. The Majestic Kelp deal in clean tones and a warm vibe. They dabble in lounge, spaghetti western and cocktail variations with a slightly trippy feel. It's lush and well arranged. Sitar bumps up against piano. Guitars nudge things into place. The Kelp even branches into occasional vocalising Much of the material could slide onto a movie soundtrack or grown-up public radio where the format makes concessions to occasionally playing songs.
It's a stellar guest cast that's been caught up in the Kelp. As alluded, Dom plays most of the instruments with Stu Loasby (bass, piano, organ) also getting a prominent billing. After that, you'll find Hank Marvin sideman Nunzio Mondia, DomNicks bandmate Howard Shawcross and DM3 members Pascal Bartolone and Rob Scorer are on-board. Julian Matthews from The Stems also puts in a cameo on guitar.
Surf music, of course, had its heyday in the early '60s. Songs like "Where In The World (A Song For The Summer)" and "Beach Combing" stay true to the spirit of The Shadows and Hank. What makes the album great is its constant twists and turns. "Reef Beat" gets all funky over a minimal feel, for example, and then "Smoke Signals" summons up an Apache tribe. A few tracks down the line and "Gin and Tonic" rhymes with laconic.
A dual thumbs-up to the guitar work throughout. Most of it is down to Dom Mariani and his warm, thick tonesare all over this album.
Is there a perverse logic in releasing an album of surf tunes in the depth of an Australian winter? It shouldn't matter much because "Turn Up The Sun" will have international appeal. Its prospects of being noticed probably aren't harmed by the fact it's been issued on the label owned by iconic Oz saxophonist/salsa-rocker Joe Camilleri.
Yes, there's an air of sophistication about "Turn Up The Sun" that suggests dinner parties on the back deck and cocktails at 7. That might rub you the wrong way if you think Al Fresco is the name of the guy who runs your local pizza parlour, but at least you know what you're in for. I'll certainly be cranking this when the mood takes me.