Matt Hurray

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Local Record Review: 'Egyptian Surfer' by Matt Hurray

By Ned Raggett Wed., Mar. 21 2012 at 6:41 AM


So it might not officially be summer yet but c'mon, you've seen the weather this week.  (Okay, so maybe there's rain on the way too--bear with us.) Anyway, the thing about surf music and OC is that 1) it's been happening here for decades, after all 2) there's always going to be more of it.  The fact that Egyptian Surfer has the kind of cover art we almost just expect with any celebration of an established style--slightly distressed feel like a well-loved vinyl sleeve and all--is almost the kind of thing that makes a listener go "Well, yeah, but surely we've heard this." 

But the thing of it is that Egyptian Surfer, the debut solo CD from Just Plain Big veteran and Balboa Island resident Matt Hurray, hits just enough of a perfect little sweet spot that while it's not the second coming of Dick Dale, it's not meant to be either.  Nearly all instrumentals in the classic way, aside from some brief wordless singalong moments on "Doheny Daze," it's Hurray and some friends playing around with the kind of quick, active and stinging performances that sum up the style, kicking off with the trebly hit of "C&H Girls" and heading all the way through with song titles like "No Parking" and "School is Out" summing up the feeling at play.

That said, a few moments like "Sunset Gammon" and "Aloha," the agreeable album closer, take an easier pace, not quite yacht rock but not too far removed from the feeling of just enjoying the sunset and scrounging up a gin and tonic.  It's the kind of music that feels good when there's not a care in the world, and as anyone can tell you, there's always plenty to care about and feel even angrier than normal as a result.  So Egyptian Surfer is the soundtrack of a daydream but there's a reason why so many of us live here and have those daydreams, and Hurray's having a blast with it.

The Rock And Roll Report

5 Stars (Out of 5)

After spending time in the California-based band Just Plain Big, guitarist Matt Hurray wanted to stretch his creativity and make his own music. In 2011, Hurray entered the studio to record his first solo album. That album is called Egyptian Surfer.

On Egyptian Surfer, Matt Hurray takes time to explore several different styles of music, though he spends the most time playing instrumental surf tunes. The album begins with one such surf instrumental called “C+H Girls”. 

“C+H Girls” is a song that brings to mind the instrumental rock bands from the sixties, especially the Rock Hall members The Ventures. The solid rock sound of the first track will have many rock fans thinking back to times gone by when instrumental bands could be found on the radio airwaves playing their brand of rock and roll and rock guitarists were able to show off their talents on the guitar. With this track, Matt Hurray gives the listener just a sample of his abilities on the guitar.

With the track “Peninsula Prowl,” Hurray seems to summon the talents of guitarists like Link Wray and Dick Dale. In fact, this track has a sound that will remind many people of Dick Dale’s numerous hits.

The third track off of Egyptian Surfer finds the album’s style changing dramatically. While the first two tracks are rock-oriented, “Sunset Gammon” features a smooth jazz feel. This smooth jazz track slows the pace down and takes the listener into a more relaxed setting.

Egyptian Surfer continues with the title track, which brings the energy level back up and also brings the surf feel back, as well as on the next track of “Nose Rider”. In fact, it’s hard not to imagine scenes of surfers riding the waves off the coasts of California or Hawaii as you listen to these tracks.

On the track “Las Olas,” Hurray once again lightens the feel of the music. While the earlier track of “Sunset Gammon” slowed the pace of the music down, Hurray keeps the energy level up on a track the features the sounds of the acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar is a nice contrast to the electric guitar that Hurray gravitates to for the majority of the songs on this album.

For the release of Egyptian Surfer, Matt Hurray calls on the talents of drummer Gary Ferguson and multi-instrumentalist Jim Rice to help fill out the sound for the album. It is on the track “No Parking,” however, that the three musicians are joined by keyboard players Eric Vinje and Danny Timms. While still containing that surf rock feel, the keyboards from Vinje and Timms also give the track a little flavor. This gives “No Parking” a slightly different feeling than the rest of the album.

While the majority of the new release from Matt Hurray has a very distinct feeling to it because of the surf instrumentals, there are instances during the release where Hurray changes the pace of the music, like on the aforementioned “Sunset Gammon”. Another instance where the pace of the music changes is on the song “Doheny Daze”, which also features some vocalizing from Hurray and Jim Rice. While Hurray and Rice don’t actually sing on this track, their vocals do add texture to the music of the track.

The title of Matt Hurray’s 2012 solo release of Egyptian Surfer seems to have been wisely chosen. While the surf motif on the album is very obvious, the release was also put together in such a way that the peaks and valleys made by the various tracks on the album help to create “waves” from the energy levels from each track on the release; so much so, the listener can imagine riding the waves back to shore as the final song of “Aloha” finishes out the album.

For a solo debut release, Matt Hurray’s Egyptian Surfer is very well-rounded. And with the different approaches to the music on the album, there is much for the listener to discover and enjoy. The album never gets stale and keeps the listener wanting more.

CD Review

Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Back in the 1960s, there were two different schools of surf rock: (1) vocal artists like the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, and (2) surf instrumentalists such as the Ventures, the Challengers and Dick Dale.  Guitarist/bassist Matt Hurray’s Egyptian Surfer falls into the second category, although it wasn’t recorded in the 1960s (this is an early 2010s recording/February 2012 release) and is not a carbon copy of the instrumental surf rock from the 1960s.  Nonetheless, there is a huge 1960s influence on this CD, which is Hurray’s first solo effort and is a definite departure from his work as bassist for the Southern-California-based alternative rock/punk band Just Plain Big (who have been around since 1992).  That band doesn’t play surf rock, and Just Plain Big are not instrumentalists.

Jim Rice (who produced Egyptian Surfer) provides some additional guitar and bass on this album, and Gary Ferguson plays drums.  But Hurray wrote all eleven of the tracks, and his guitar playing is right up front.  Egyptian Surfer has plenty of infectious uptempo offerings, including “C & H Girls,” “Nose Rider,” “No Parking,” “Wheelhouse” and the title song, all of which are very easy to get into if one is a fan of 1960s surf instrumentals like the Bobby Fuller-associated “Thunder Reef.”  Those Hurray tunes aren’t an exact replica of what the Ventures or Dick Dale did back in the day; Hurray often brings a touch of punk aggression to his instrumental surf rock, which is logical given how much 1960s rock influenced many of the punk and new wave bands of the 1970s and 1980s.  But Hurray’s melodies are quite mindful of the 1960s nonetheless.  The uptempo “School Is Out” (not to be confused with Alice Cooper’s early 1970s hit “School’s Out”) has a punk attitude, yet the melody acknowledges the 1960s in no uncertain terms.   

And the CD’s art work is certainly 1960s-minded.  The front cover looks like it could have been designed back then, and the word “stereo” is strategically placed at the bottom of the front cover in a way that clearly recalls an era in which the music industry was making the transition from hi-fidelity mono to hi-fidelity stereo.

Not everything on Egyptian Surfer is uptempo or aggressive; in fact, some parts of the album are relaxed and moody.  That is certainly true of “Doheny Daze” (the Doheny is no doubt Doheny Drive in Los Angeles), “Sunset Gammon” and the jazz-tinged “Las Olas” (which also incorporates a touch of Spanish flamenco).  And the jazzy, good-natured “Aloha,” which closes the 34-minute CD, may very well be the most laid-back track of all.  So one certainly cannot accuse Egyptian Surfer of being predictable or one-dimensional.  Hurray achieves a fair amount of variety on this disc, reminding us that back in the 1960s, there was more to instrumental surf rock than the uptempo tunes.

Of course, being moody doesn’t automatically mean that one is playing at a slow tempo.  “Peninsula Prowl,” like the Chantays’ hit “Pipeline” (one of the top surf instrumentals of 1963) is uptempo and energetic but is also moody and haunting.  And it is evocative as well.  When “Peninsula Prowl” is playing, the listener feels like he/she could be watching Southern Californians surf at Zuma Beach back in the mid-1960s. 

The title Egyptian Surfer might lead some folks to believe that perhaps Hurray is combining surf rock with North African music, but no, this CD doesn’t have an especially strong North African or Arabic influence.  The closest Hurray gets to anything North African is the flamenco influence on “Las Olas” (Spanish flamenco music still has its Moorish influence after all these years). 

Although surf rock hit its peak (both commercially and creatively) in the 1960s, it still has an audience.  That audience includes Hurray, who obviously has quite a fondness for the surf rock of that era.  And his passion for instrumental surf rock yields thoroughly enjoyable results on Egyptian Surfer.

 

Inside World Music

Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)

The surf rock/pop songs of Matt Hurray are captured in majestic beauty on the latest release, Egyptian Surfer.  Matt is joined by California hombres, Jim Rice (guitar, bass, harmonies), Gary Ferguson (drums), Danny Timms (keyboards) and Eric Vinje (keyboards).  The set of eleven, mostly instrumental songs evokes a sunny demeanor on the entire world with its lush, swaying melodies on acoustic and electric guitar with grungy percussion—not grunge music.

“C & H Girls” begins with a rousing guitar line that mimics the pipelines of Southern California’s ocean playground for the surfer soul.  The gritty guitars and full percussion sound are interspersed with reverberating guitars.  This is a surfer’s anthem that speeds up a bit near the latter half of the song.  “Peninsula Prowl” has a killer bass line and rock-driven, guitar line with the classic reverberations that makes surf rock shine.  The instrumental song is vibrant with surf hooks and riffs that will blow anyone out of the water.

“Sunset Gammon” opens with a swaying melody indicative of a lazy Hawaiian afternoon.  The lilting guitar melody is unlike other surf songs, because this song possesses a jazzy quality with slower and clearer percussion.  The acoustic guitar is played in the same manner a steel slide guitar would be played.  However, the softer tones of acoustic picking shimmer with loads of happiness and feel-good qualities with every listen.  The word ‘sunset’ is very reminiscent of the calming moods created.

“Egyptian Summer” transcends borders and cultures, because it does not particularly contain musical references to Egypt.  Instead, the surf rock idiom is still the focus of study.  The music contains sounds that hint at a harmonica or horn.  Nevertheless, the music is still top-notch and a perfect addition to a summer night out along the beaches of coasts everywhere.  “Nose Rider” seems like a surfing reference, which is fitting.  The electric guitar ventures into new waters, but the primary surf rock themes are preserved in their entire nostalgic splendor.

“Doheny Daze” opens with a jazzy, guitar intro.  One departure from other tracks is the incorporation of vocal ‘doo’ sounds.  The light percussion conjures up images of “Sunset Gammon.”  The vocal accompaniment is appropriate for the melody and instrumentation.  The guitars are still present, but not as evident as on other songs.  “Aloha” signals the end of the album with a little acoustic guitar, light drum work, and a jazzy melody.

Egyptian Surfer contains eleven tracks that feature a gamut of surf rock songs and rebellious vigor in a very satisfying package.  Matt and his band-mates know how to arouse nostalgic memories of surf-dom that are still with us today.  The positives include a limited instrumental set that feature percussion and guitar as the primary vehicles that unlock the surfing mystique. Also, the vocal ‘doos’ on “Doheny Daze” are a nice touch of variety that were not distracting or unnecessary.  The lack of vocals throughout was not disappointing in any way, as the guitar dictated the direction of the album and words would have mucked it up.  At any rate, Egyptian Surfer washes over the listener with righteous waves of rollicking goodness that can only lead to happiness.  Matt and his team have produced a thrilling piece of musical history that will satisfy the most discriminating surf bum with a hankering for hanging-ten.  The negatives are only related to the sub-thirty-five-minute length.  However, the listener can solve this problem by playing the album over and over again.  After all, that is what the listener of surf rock will be doing anyway.          

Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)

Owner Outsider Records

We blasted it over the weekend! 

You have achieved something extraordinary - a batch of songs that's makes your heart sing, your psyche smile and your liver fear the incoming wave of celebratory alcohol...A++.


Music Street Journal

Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

The musical mix on Egyptian Surfer seems to combine a retro surf music with modern progressive rock, but that only applies to some of the songs. There are also tracks that land closer to mellow jazz. Hints of country show up at points. It’s all instrumental (unless you count one number with non-lyrical vocals). It’s also all compelling and strong. 

Percussion opens “C & H Girls” and from there Hurray launches into a tune that combines surf music with modern progressive rock. It’s certainly more surf oriented (at times one might imagine listening to The Ventures) but there is definitely a more modern vibe attached.  “Peninsula Prowl” has a lot in common with the theme song to “The Munsters,” but there’s also a riff that calls to mind the hook melody from “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” Of course, it certainly forays into more Ventures-like territory, too.

There isn’t really any surf music on “Sunset Gammon.” Instead, it’s focused on a mellow, guitar oriented jazz that’s not that far removed from something Pat Metheny might do. It’s a cool tune that presents a nice change of pace. It’s pretty and relaxing, yet there’s enough drama built into it to keep it interesting. The surf returns, appropriately, with the title track. It’s definitely more in keeping with the progressive rock stylings that were hinted at in the first two cuts. In fact, it wouldn’t be a big stretch to imagine the cut being released by any number of modern prog acts. Still, that retro surf sound manages to shine through.

“Nose Rider” is one of the most energized tunes on the set. It’s got a lot of power and does a great job of combining the old school surf with modern sounds. It’s one of the highlights of the set. It might call to mind some of Steve Howe’s solo work a bit. “Las Olas” finds Murray and company closer to the jazz sounds of “Sunset Gammon.” There’s perhaps a bit more groove present on this outing, though. There are still some retro sounds, but they are less surf oriented.

“No Parking” brings back hints of surf, but there’s also country music, modern prog and a lot more there. It’s another that’s got more energy than some of the rest of the disc. It’s also another that wouldn’t feel out of place (although it would likely be a little different) on a Steve Howe solo album.

There’s a great mellow, bouncy feeling to “Doheny Daze.” It’s got some non-lyrical vocals and really feels like a gentle summer day. It still manages to pull in some of that mellow jazz sound and retro folk progressive rock elements. There’s really not a lot of surf music in the tune, though. It’s another nice bit of variety.

The surf definitely returns on “Wheelhouse” as the tune feels like a cross between the Ventures and some modern instrumental prog. “School Is Out” has a real rock texture to it without a lot of surf music. Some of the chord progressions still fit, but it is much more like a rock and roll turned proggy instrumental cut with some hints of jazz. When a song is entitled “Aloha,” one expects a real surf sound. The disc closer doesn’t live up to that expectation. Instead, Hurray delivers a mellow, balladic like sound that’s quite effective and pretty. It might not be the most obvious choice for closer, but it works fairly well.

One of the only real complaints about this album is the fact that it feels too short. Of course, leaving a listener wanting for more can be a good thing. In addition, adding in one or two cuts with some real singing would have lent variety. Still, the combination of sounds is unique and the performances are strong, making this a great release.

Matt Hurray wrote all the songs and handles most of the instrumentation and non-lyrical vocals. With a release this solid, he should feel proud. Of course, Jim Rice (who provides additional guitars, some of those non-lyrical vocals and bass on a couple tunes) and Gary Ferguson (playing the drums) should also feel good about their work. This certainly lands in the “win” column.

Wildy's World

Rating:                    4 Stars (Out of 5)

Matt Hurray just can’t stop.  As long-time lead guitarist for on-again, off-again So-Cal legends Just Plain Big, Hurray has toured the United States from coast to coast, and shared the stage with major name artists.  While Just Plain Big still remains a going concern, its members have, for the time being drifted off to various musical projects of their own.  Never one to stand still, Matt Hurray began recording his own side-project, a collection of guitar instrumentals steeped in the surf guitar sound that are his ancestral roots.  With the help of Southern California legends Gary Ferguson, Danny Timms, Eric Vinue and Jim Rice, Hurray has created the highly evolved and intriguing album Egyptian Surfer.

It is always difficult to sit and wax poetic about rock instrumental albums.  At the end of the day, either the album is very good, meaning that you will play it again and again, or it will sit in the dusty corner of your CD collection, or become relegated to your tertiary backup hard drive and never be heard from again.  So let’s clear the air early on and say that Matt Hurray’s Egyptian Surfer is not of the latter category.  Hurray’s mojo seems to be inspired by 1960’s rock, whether surf guitar masters such as Dick Dale and Jim Fuller (Surfaris), or the more laid back style of Link Wray.

Turning these sorts of influences and inspirations into an eleven song album that engages and maintains listeners is a challenge for even the greats, however.  Hurray succeeds where many have failed, turning Egyptian Surfer into an experience that you’ll enjoy from start to finish, as well as again and again.  Lifting off with the electric surf-rock style of “C&H Girls” and “Peninsula Prowl”, Hurray displays serious chops in two high-energy, highly entertaining turns.  Hurray slips into an early 1960’s commercial rock style for “Sunset Gammon”, sounding much like the sort of new age/pop that John Tesh once purveyed. 

Hurray’s inspirations coast a bit through “Egyptian Summer”, but he comes right back with the hard hitting and eclectic “Nose Rider”.  Imagine a jam session between The B-52’s and Dick Dale and you’ll have an idea of what you’re in for here.  This tune will get inside of your head, move your feet and simply not let you go.  “Las Olas” is catchy, fun and playful.  The stereo effect on the dual guitar lines gives a sense of separation within the song that is jarring, the one drawback to the adventure.  “No Parking” is pure rockabilly with a lethal R&B backbeat.  This invigorating little tune recalls a time when rock and roll was fun and rebellious, just because.

On “Doheny Daze”, Hurray follows an easy-going groove, accented by scant vocalizations in one of those songs that could either be a slow dance or mid-tempo dance.  You could easily picture high school couples, circa 1963, cutting a rug at a school dance to this tune.  “Wheelhouse” is a solid album entry, and moves quickly into the straight-ahead rock and roll of “School Is Out”.  The energy here is amazing; all you’d expect.  Hurray is absolutely on fire on the fret board and you’ll think it can’t get any better than this.  Egyptian Surfer wraps with “Aloha”, an easy-listening new-age/pop piece born of the early 1960’s.  This is a solid piece in its own right, but something of a letdown after “School Is Out”.

Matt Hurray shows off the requisite chops of any guitar-driven rock instrumental album on Egyptian Surfer, but more than that, he also shows that a showman is a showman no matter his instrument.  What could have been a tired and repetitive experience becomes something much more in the hands of this capable axe-man.  Egyptian Surfer is that rare rock instrumental cycle that you’ll listen to again and again.