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Wipe Out

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Album Review

Although the sextet's influence may not have lived up to its moniker, the Impacts can proudly lay claim as the launching pad for guitar wunderkind Merrell Fankhauser. Their debut long-player from 1963, Wipe Out! was among the more promising releases from Del-Fi's extensive surf music roster, which also included the Sentinals, the Lively Ones, the Centurions, and the Challengers. While many of these bands had significant instrumental prowess, a prominent feature giving the Impacts an edge was their strong material, consisting mostly of self-composed selections. If the title tune seems familiar, it might be because Fankhauser's arrangement of the work in progress — initially identified as "Kick Out" — was adapted [read: stolen] by record producer Tony Hilder, whose inspiration from the Impacts spilled over to his collaborations with the Surfaris. They sped up the tempo, inserted a catchy fever-pitched drum solo — and voilà, a Top Five hit called "Wipe Out." The original version is less aggressive, bearing a lilting lead call-and-response melody. "Fort Lauderdale" — one of several numbers penned by steel guitarist Wayne Brown — bears an energy level exceeding any of the genre's dynamic contemporaries, such as the aforementioned Centurions' "Intoxica." The cover of the Sentinals' "Revellion," as well as "Impact" — another Brown rocker that was perhaps the motivation behind the combo's name — are definitive examples of their edgy acceleration. The Impacts were equally adept at spinning ballads that were far from the typical three-chord fare that the majority of their peers were churning out. "Blue Surf" features some of Fankhauser's finest fretwork on the disc, with a twang that would give Duane Eddy a run for his money. Brown's sultry "Lisa" is a platform for saxophonist Joel Rose, whose steamy vibrato sounds as if it were a personal invitation to sin. A festive remake of the surf standard "Church Key" concludes Wipe Out! on an up note, as once again the Impacts turn in an impressive interpretation, rivaling both the Revels and Centurions readings. Seasoned surf enthusiasts and the curious are well served by this collection.


Formed: 1961

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s

Before beginning his career as a vocalist and songwriter, the multi-faceted Merrell Fankhauser was the lead guitarist of surf group the Impacts. He has repeatedly claimed in interviews that they recorded the original version of "Wipe Out," only to have the song and arrangement stolen by the Surfaris, who had a huge hit with it in 1963. The Impacts didn't get any hits themselves, but they did manage to release a respectable instrumental...
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Wipe Out, The Impacts
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