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Checkered Flag

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Album Review

Cars were second only to surfing as a teenage obsession in California in the early '60s, and after establishing himself as the King of Surf Guitar, Dick Dale set out to conquer new worlds by turning his attention to hot rods on his 1963 album Checkered Flag. Like most of Dale's albums for Capitol, Checkered Flag is divided between the meat-and-potatoes instrumentals that were Dale's stock-in-trade and vocal numbers that usually featured elaborate production and the work of outside songwriters. Dale was producer on the sessions for Checkered Flag, and he sounds like he's having more fun than usual on vocal numbers like "Hot Rod Racer," "Grudge Run," and the backhanded tribute to the Volkswagen Beetle, "It Will Grow on You" (and he manages to keep a straight face when he tells listeners about the "Big Black Cad" — "Believe it or not, it's easy on gas!"). Of course, what most Dick Dale fans are looking for are tunes where the great man goes wild on guitar, and Checkered Flag certainly has its share, including the slow and slinky "Ho-Dad Machine," the frantic "The Wedge," and the supercharged closer, "Night Rider," and Dale had some great players backing him up for these sessions, including Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer on drums and Steve Douglas and Plas Johnson on sax. While Checkered Flag devotes a bit too much of its playing time to novelty-oriented vocal numbers, it packs enough punch to be one of Dale's better albums with Capitol.

Checkered Flag, Dick Dale & His Del-Tones
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