Center of the Surf is a live recording of surf giants The Madeira playing at the 2017 Surfguitar101 Convention in Torrance, CA: essentially the center of US surf music fandom and surf music history. Present in the audience was Mark Linett, a 3-time grammy winning producer and engineer capturing it all.
Also present was me. I’ve already talked about that show and how important I think The Madeira are. I’m in disbelief that photos that I took are on this album by a band that will go down as one of the greatest to play this music. But really, I mention I was because I can compare what I heard to what’s on this album. Here’s a secret: I love recorded music, possibly more than live music and very few bands that I love sound better than their album to me. The Madeira sounded better live, and this recording of them live sounds better than they did live. Admittedly, this is mostly because once something gets loud enough you hear less of it, and this recording retains everything -- though you really HAVE to hear it loud for the full experience. The guitars have more texture than their albums, the bass is perfectly punchy and well-rounded (not to mention the growl of the bass guitar comes out nicely). I wouldn’t say it doesn’t sound like a live record, but that is absolutely fine. It’s an absolutely glorious amount of noise, a gigantic wall of sound that’ll leave you thinking “whoa” in-between tracks.
Listening to it as I type and hearing the pure power behind “Dilmohammed” it’s hard to believe that it hasn’t gotten to the awe-inspiring climax of the event. That being when they were joined by Johnpaul Balak and John Blair for a ridiculous 5 guitar massacre. Those are on the three final tracks here, and add more teeth to a an already very bitey guitar sound. It really does sound massive and ferocious, and not to mention they’re played at a faster tempo than their album versions. Despite the added menace, “Sandstorm” still gives me goosebumps every time.
Two of my favorites from Ancient Winds that aren’t quite as focused on raw strength are present: “Undercurrents” and “The Argonaut” and sound absolutely gorgeous, especially in the later high notes of “Undercurrents” which really sing out. My only disappointment here is the omission of their absolute heaviest: “Caravela”. I know that they played it and I know it was downright oppressive in its intensity. I’m sure they have their reasons.
If I’ve written five paragraphs you know it’s good. You should have known that when you read the band name. This is a really incredible live record and perhaps the best way to hear some of the greatest hits of one of the greatest surf bands. What more can you say? Grab it from Double Crown. Check out the video below to actually hear what I’ve been talking about.