Last year in Philadelphia I picked up a 2-LP various artists compilation (of “previously released material”) called California U.S.A. – originally issued in 1981 on Columbia:
Surprisingly, my buddy, Tom Avazian – a gifted record collector – had never heard of it. This hodgepodge of 60s and 70s singles/rarities that originally came out on Columbia/Epic (save one) is unified by a connection to sunny California and its association with the beach, surfing, and fast cars.
I was amused to see that one of the songs in this collection was written in 1851: “Swanee River.” Why, you may ask, would a minstrel song that is the official state song of Florida (and better known as “Old Folks at Home” or, more accurately, “Suwannee River“) be included in a California-themed compilation?
Answer: This fresh and original take on Stephen Foster’s crusty classic is pure 70s sunshine/power pop that only could have come from Southern California (or, even better, a UK band clearly besotted with the Beach Boy ideal of Southern California and its lush harmony vocal tradition) – the pastoral “middle eight” section, in particular, being an arrangement straight out of Brian Wilson‘s long lost (though recently found) Smile album:
(Tony Rivers &) Fresh 
Poke around on Discogs, however, and you will quickly discover that “Fresh” is a shortened form of The Freshmen — an Irish showband! Discogs informs you what your ears already know: “The band specialised in copying the vocal harmonies of bands like the Beach Boys, to whom they were compared.”
(photo courtesy of Discogs)
My uncle Chuck might be intrigued to know that this double album also includes “No Surf in Cleveland” by The Euclid Beach Band – a misnomer of a lyric, actually, since not only do Cleveland surfers exist, but they also believe “they are the last remnants of the original surf culture of the 1940s and 50s, when surfing was still a renegade sport of social misfits who scouted virgin breaks, surfed alone, and lived by a code of friendliness to newcomers and respect for the water.”
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