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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Dale Rides Different Musical Wave at Coach House

July 05, 1993|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — The tribe that follows guitar guru Dick Dale is a strangely mixed group. Those gathering at Dale's Coach House performance Saturday included young, long-haired heavy-metal types and other assorted, grungily dressed initiates as well as aging surfers, middle-aged hippies and a number of well-dressed yuppies.

That Dale's hell-bent style appeals to all of them is not that surprising. Intensity like his is always admired.

In a 90-minute set that consisted mainly of numbers pulled from his new "Tribal Thunder" recording, Dale scorched all their ears with the kind of blistering attack that, in the '60s, came to stand as a metaphor for the moment-to-moment challenges of surfing. But the music heard this night seemed less inspired by breaking surf than it was by Middle Eastern phrasing played over strong, primitive beats.

Let's face it. There's nothing deep about Dale's material. A good 80% of his tunes are based on simple, three-chord blues changes, often done in a minor key and always played at speeds that range from head-banging to skull-crunching. Still, it's what the guitarist does inside that format that makes him godhead among the faithful.

All Dale's sizzling, rippled phrases were on display, including the patented descending line that he tags on the end of every other passage, recalling "Pipeline" each time it airs. Through it all, Dale maneuvers his tone and volume, contrasting quieter, almost acoustic sounding clicks, with full-out, fuzzed-up rants. One really doesn't know what to expect next.

And neither does Dale. Constantly directing the two other members of his trio--bassist Ron Eglit and drummer Dan Maneely--into unknown territory, the guitarist explained to the crowd at various times how he likes to create on stage. The practice gave the show an expectant edge, as if at anytime Dale might stumble onto something so revolutionary that the face of rock 'n' roll would be forever changed. After all, he has done it before.

Under Dale's control, one tune would dissolve into another, as when the American Indian beat of "Trail of Tears" gave way to "The Long Ride." Or sometimes three or more would be jumbled together, their different themes popping up just when you thought they'd been forgotten.

Dale managed to work some variety among the material, mixing a slow-and-sultry "Fever" and a determined "The House of the Rising Sun" into the acidic mix. Traditional guitar rockers such as "Theme From Peter Gunn" were balanced with the Gypsy-like sound of Dale's own "Tribal Thunder." Duke Ellington-Juan Tizol's "Caravan," with its North African-flavored theme, was the perfect vehicle for Dale's minor-key onslaught, though it probably had Ellington doing head-bangs in his grave.

There were a few blasts from the past--including "Death of a Gremmie" and hints of "Let's Go Trippin' "--but for the most part, Dale seems to have moved on. Like any experienced surf-rat, he's always looking outside for the next wave.

*

Opening act the DaddyOs brought a snide irreverence to their mix of originals and covers. Dressed outlandishly and constantly changing wild headgear (singer Mike Arguello was particularly fetching in polka-dot overalls that revealed his sizable bosom), the seven-piece band was at its best when parodying well-known numbers, such as its swing-band approach to "Stairway to Heaven," but was less satisfying when working straight covers as it did on medleys from the Who and Led Zeppelin.

Best of all were band originals, including "DaddyO Patio," with an arrangement that Cab Calloway might have admired.

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