Monday, June 29, 2015

Ronny And The Daytonas: “The Complete Recordings” (2015) CD Review

Oh yes, music can really save us sometimes, you know? I was in a foul mood, trying to deal with the landlord (actually, just trying to get the bastard to return my calls), when the Ronny And The Daytonas two-disc set arrived. I popped in the first disc, and was immediately in a better mood, no longer wanting to hunt the guy down and have him drawn and quartered. The Complete Recordings includes forty-eight tracks on two discs. There are some great 1960s surf and hot rod tunes, including their huge hit, “G.T.O.,” and four previously unreleased tracks. This wonderful collection also includes extensive liner notes written by John Buck Wilkin, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the band. He’s the “Ronny” of Ronny And The Daytonas. Yup, it turns out some really good surf music came out of Nashville. Go figure. There are lots of mellow tunes as well, like the pretty “Baby Say No.”

The collection opens with the band’s most famous tune, “G.T.O.,” a song which reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. This is such a fun tune, and I can’t believe I left it off of my recent list of songs for road trip mixes. I will have to start compiling a second list. John Buck Wilkin gives us some interesting information on this song in the liner notes. That tune is followed by “Hot Rod Baby,” about a girl named Sally who “lives way down in the valley” and “dreams about hot rod cars.” This one was written by Jerry Dean Smith.

“California Bound” is another tune to add to my list of music for road trips. It was written by John Wilkin, and released as a single, reaching #72 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was the follow-up single to “G.T.O.” “There’s nothing going on in this town/I’m going to rock it tonight/Gonna really get right/I’m California bound.” “Hey Little Girl,” the single’s flip side, is one of my favorites, mainly due to the cool vocal approach. This was also written by John Wilkin.

“Bucket ‘T’” is a goofy and delightful tune with lines like “All the girls want to take a ride with me/But there’s only seat in my bucket ‘T’” and a little nod to “Surfin’ Bird.” “Bucket ‘T’” is a Jan And Dean cover, written by Don Altfeld, Roger Christian, Dean Torrence and Jan Berry. Ronny And The Daytonas released this as a single. They also do a good job with Chuck Berry’s “Back In The U.S.A.”

John Wilkin co-wrote “Hot Rod City” with Bill Justis, who also produced a lot of these tracks. This tune features some nice work on keys. “They’re really getting their kicks out in Hot Rod City.” Then in the slow number “Teenage Years” Wilkins sings, “But good times never last/And my teenage years are going mighty fast.” No kidding. He also sings, “I don’t know what I’ll do/When my teenage years are through.” Yeah, most of us are still trying to figure that out, and we’re in our forties now.

I love the playfulness of “Little Scrambler,” written by John Wilkin, pointing out that his scrambler was “Made in Japan.” But the lines that I find just totally delightful are these: “Some people think I’m crazy because I drive a bike/But I don’t make too much money and I’d rather not hike/But if fellas with cars try to give me sass/I tell them I can go forever on a gallon of gas.” This tune was released as a single. Another seriously fun song is “Tiger-A-Go-Go,” about San Francisco. It opens in faux serious tones: “We didn’t see the bridge, or visit Chinatown/When we hit San Francisco, all we did was fool around.” And then it kicks in and is just a delight. John Wilkin co-wrote this one with Buzz Cason. That writing team is responsible for several other tracks in this collection, including “Bay City” (an instrumental), “No Wheels” and “Sandy.” “Sandy,” a slower song, was released as a single in 1965, and reached #27 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Its flip side was a slightly shorter instrumental version, also included here.)

The second disc is a lot mellower, at least for the first several songs, until we get to “Antique ’32 Studebaker Dictator Coupe,” which is a fun song written by Jerry Dean Smith. It was released as a single, but didn’t do anything on the charts. Even more fun is “All American Girl,” one of my favorites. It begins with some cool a cappella vocal work, then has a good groove and vibe. “She’s the hippest thing going with her pretty, long hair/And with a natural personality that’s good anywhere/Always where the action is and right with the trend.” “All American Girl” was written by John Wilkin. It was released as a single, with “Dianne, Dianne,” which John Wilkin co-wrote with Merle Kilgore. That single reached #69 on the Billboard chart.

I’m also really fond of “Winter Weather,” with its first lines being, “Put on your old coat with the big fur collar/And we’ll take a walk in the snow/And though it’s cold out and I ain’t got a dollar/There’s still a lot of places to go.” It has such a playful, catchy vibe. I like the bass line. “Winter Weather” was written by John Wilkin.

“Brave New World” is another good track, with an excellent mid-1960s rock feel, and a cool vocal performance. The title “Brave New World” is a Shakespeare reference. In the fifth act of The Tempest, when Miranda suddenly meets several men, she exclaims, “O wonder!/How many goodly creatures are there here!/How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world/That has such people in’t.” In “Brave New World,” John Wilkin sings, “It’s a brave new world/Look around you, girl.” He co-wrote this song with Buzz Cason.

“Delta Day (No Time To Cry)” is perhaps the most interesting song in this collection. It has quite a different feel from the other tracks, and was written by John Wilkin, Kris Kristofferson and Marijohn Wilkin (John’s mother, a country music writer). There is certainly a country element, but also a very serious tone. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Then awaking to hear the sound of one helicopter bursting in flame go down/Hold on, boy, don’t lose your mind/Hold on, boy, it’s no time to cry.” And check out this line: “I see the eyes of the enemy older than any child ought to be.” This song was released as a single under the name Bucky Wilkin rather than Ronny And The Daytonas. It’s a seriously strong track, though apparently the single didn’t make a dent in the charts. The other side of the single is a good cover of The Monkees’ “I Wanna Be Free,” which was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.

Previously Unreleased Tracks

This two-disc set includes four tracks that were previously unreleased. The first is “Daytona Beach,” which was written by John Wilkin and Lee Kraft. This is a groovy, upbeat surfin' tune. That's followed by a different version of “Hey Little Girl.” It has a different intro and is a bit shorter than the original version. I really like this version a lot. Also included is a cover of “Chapel Of Love” and
a pretty tune called “Angelina,” which was written by John Wilkin and Wayne Usher and recorded in 1967.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. G.T.O.
  2. Hot Rod Baby
  3. California Bound
  4. Hey Little Girl
  5. Bucket “T”
  6. Little Rail Job
  7. The Little Stingray That Could
  8. Surfin’ In The Summertime
  9. Back In The U.S.A.
  10. Hot Rod City
  11. Teenage Years
  12. Little Scrambler
  13. Tiger-A-Go-Go
  14. Bay City
  15. Beach Boy
  16. No Wheels
  17. Sandy
  18. Sandy (Instrumental)
  19. Somebody To Love Me
  20. Goodbye Baby
  21. Hold Me My Baby
  22. Baby Say No
  23. When Stars Shine Bright
  24. Be Good To Your Baby
Disc Two
  1. If I Had My Way
  2. Nanci
  3. Come Into My Heart
  4. So In Love
  5. Then The Rains Came
  6. Antique ’32 Studebaker Dictator Coupe
  7. I’ll Think Of Summer
  8. All American Girl
  9. Dianne, Dianne
  10. Young
  11. Winter Weather
  12. The Last Letter
  13. Walk With The Sun
  14. Brave New World
  15. Hold Onto Your Heart
  16. The Girls And The Boys
  17. Alfie
  18. 4-Cast She’ll Love Me Again
  19. Delta Day (No Time To Cry)
  20. I Wanna Be Free
  21. Daytona Beach
  22. Hey Little Girl
  23. Chapel Of Love
  24. Angelina
The Complete Recordings is going to be released on June 30, 2015 through Real Gone Music. 

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