Thursday, January 26, 2017

Re-Up: The Sunrays - For Collectors Only: Vintage Rays (1996)

I originally posted this out-of-print Sunrays collection to cap off Surf Music Month, which I did back in July. Since then, I was able to get a higher quality copy of it that has the "missing songs" I mentioned in my original post. So I'm re-upping it. In addition to the music, I included a PDF of an online music journal that has an interview with Sunrays band leader Rick Henn. I also took time to tag the MP3s Enjoy this one -- I sure did, as my original post below shows.


As July comes to a close, so does Surf Music Month on this blog. Every day since July 4, I've posted an album that was related to '60s surf music in some way. But there's still one more day to go and I saved best for last.

The Sunrays' 1996 three-disc set, For Collectors Only: Vintage Rays, is long out of print and now goes for around $100 a pop on the used market. There is a reason for that, and it's a reason that goes beyond the fact that it's hard to find. The music here -- at least on the second two discs -- is about as great as you're going to find when it comes to 1960s pop. And that means all '60s pop, not just surf music.

First, let's dispel a falsehood that I keep reading about when it comes to the Sunrays. The band was not "put together" by Murry Wilson -- the Beach Boys' manager who was also the father of the Wilson brothers. The Sunrays were already a band called the Renegades while they were in high school. It was there that they met Beach Boy Carl Wilson, who introduced them to his father Murry, who the Beach Boys had recently fired as manager.

Murry took on managerial duties and got the group a major label deal. He also produced their records. But the Sunrays were their own band, not Murry's puppets. This should be all general knowledge because the story of how the band was put together has been told in countless interviews and on the radio interview included on this very set. But, it seems, most people can't be bothered to do basic fact-checking before spouting off on YouTube and online music forums.

A second falsehood is that the group was a Beach Boys "copy band." They might have performed in the style of the Beach Boys, but their songs weren't Rutles-like facsimiles. They used the Beach Boys' harmonies as a jumping off point to create a '60s pop sound, similar to what Jan & Dean did after 1963. More importantly, the songs that the Sunrays came up with are so good that it almost doesn't matter that their sound wasn't wholly original. This becomes evident in the second half of this collection, which brings together almost everything they recorded (more on this below).

Disc one is made up of a bunch of surf instrumentals cut when the band were in their teens. It's nice, but expendable. The main course comes up on the second disc, which is the Sunrays first album plus some non-LP sides. It contains a plethora of original songs, mostly by band members Rick Henn and (the late) Eddy Medora, virtually all of which are first-rate.

Besides the Henn-penned hits "I Live for the Sun" and "Andrea," there are some really impressive deep cuts. First and foremost is "A Little Dog and His Boy," which is both musically and lyrically innovative. What other pop song in 1966 tackled the issue of the war with such assured narrative craft? No "copy band" would have come up with something that was both this moving and this tuneful.

The only discordant notes come in the form of the two songs Murry Wilson wrote for them, "Car Party" and "Outta Gas." Frankly, they're awful. And they rightfully flopped as a single release. The elder Wilson could not write rock songs. He could, however, write ballads and a mellow number Wilson co-wrote with Henn, "Won't You Tell Me," is a highlight of disc three. (Beach Boys fans might remember that Rick Henn also wrote at least one song with Brian Wilson, "Soulful Old Man Sunshine," which stands as THE great Beach Boys number left unreleased in its day.)

Disc three mostly has songs that would have been on the Sunrays second album, had there been one. Judging by the strength of such numbers as "Tired of You," "I Wanna Know," and (especially) "Old Man Doubt," this would have been one hell of an album. But the group hadn't even cracked the Top 40 with those two aforementioned hits, so another full LP wasn't in the cards.

My copy of this set is missing some tracks, which is why I made reference earlier to it "almost" including everything the Sunrays recorded. Absent are a handful of alternate takes that closed out the second disc.

I also did a slight bit of rearranging on the third disc. I put the long (and revealing) interview with the radio disc jockey at the very end. Its previous placement in the middle of the disc ruined the flow of the songs. And those songs definitely do flow. I defy anyone to play discs two and three a few times and tell me their minds aren't blow by the unforgettable musical hooks, brilliantly melodic choruses, and soaring vocal harmonies. Luck often plays a role in success, and it's my theory that Rick Henn and Eddy Madora would definitely have become major players in '60s pop had the breaks been right.

Disc: 1
1. Sidewinder
2. Renegade
3. Seventh Son
4. Young And Wild
5. Six Eight Blues
6. Trouble
7. Wheel Stand
8. Square Four
9. Ski Storm (Part 1)
10. Ski Storm (Part 2)
11. Snow Skiing
12. Mogul Monster
13. Reputation
14. Justine
15. Night Train
16. Surf Beat

Disc: 2
1. Outta Gas
2. Car Party
3. I Live For The Sun
4. Andrea
5. A Little Dog And His Boy
6. Have To Be Myself
7. I Look Baby-I Can't See
8. You Don't Phase Me
9. Still
10. Jo Ann
11. Better Be Good To Me
12. Bye Baby Bye
13. Tears In My Eyes
14. Since My Findin' You
15. When You're Not Here
16. Goodnight Debbie, Goodnight
17. Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously
18. Just 'Round The River Bend
19. Hi, How Are You
20. Loaded With Love
21. Time (A Special Thing)
22. I Live For The Sun (Alternate Version)
23. Andrea (Alternate Version)
24. Jo Ann (Alternate Version)
25. You Don't Phase Me (Alternate Version)
26. Just 'Round The River Bend (Alternate Version)
27. Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously (Alternate Version)

Disc: 3
1. I Wanna Know
2. Got No Time For My Baby
3. I Was A Loser
4. I'm On My Way
5. Our Leader
6. Tired Of You
7. Hey Little Girl
8. Old Man Doubt
9. Suzuki The Fun Bike
10. Terry Steen Time Radio Show
11. Don't Ya Give Up
12. Won't You Tell Me
13. The Colonel's Song
14. Going Surfin'
15. Longboards Rule '96


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  2. Thanks! And sorry to see the surf music go away.

  3. In Steven Gaines' book, Heros and Villians he mentions the Sunrays but gives the impression that they were a one-off Murray Wison Beach Boy clone Murray used to get back at Brian. I had no idea that they were as prolific as you present here and I am kind of excited about this. Thanks very much. And as the Samourai, I too am sorry to see the July surf sounds end.

    1. Doesn't surprise me. The Gaines books on the Beach Boys and Fab Four were heavy on gossip but weren't too musically astute. Among other errors, I remember him claiming "The End" was the "last Beatles song on the last album." Guess he always took the needle off before "Her Majesty" came on!

  4. Thanks for this special month of sun 'n fun goodies. I'm a certified moontan type, but I love the music of this culture, especially the stuff pre-1970. This has been fun and apropos!

  5. Hi, Thanks For The Sunrays, Been A Great Surfin' Month,

  6. neil from australia said this is most appreciated

  7. I only knew the two "hits" they had so I'm really looking forward to seeing their other output. Thanks!

  8. what a great month it was.............thank you

  9. Thank you so much, but.. seems the link is dead now ? :-( so sad. Could you possibly repost ??

    1. I could repost it, but the link isn't dead at all. In fact, people are still uploading it today according to the date on Zippyshare. Are you sure you mean this post, The Sunrays? Because it works for me.

    2. Yep. Sorry. it works you're right. It's just the link open a bad window sometime, telling it doesn't work. But I had the songs finally; and it's greaaat. Thank you so much. I do have the Andrea lp, but it's a real pleasure to listen to the rest of the unreleased tracks. Cheers from France ;-)

    3. And your blog is a killer one ! ;-)

  10. Though it is winter for you, it is summer here in South America, this re-up fits perfectly with the hot and the sun. This post is especially appreciated because I love surf music. I still have to find a few rarities, but you have just let me take out of my list this one. Thanks lot!!

    1. Glad to have readers from South America. Enjoy the surf music -- and the warm, sunny weather while you have it. A lot of the USA is dealing with snow right now...

  11. Thanks a lot for these goodies! Surf's up! Greetings from Mongolia.

  12. Thanks for the Sunrays. Summer's almost here!