There was a time - about twenty years ago - when the appearance of a third volume of a 60s garage compilation series (a la Pebbles") qualified as an underground vinyl event. In 2002, the same development deserves, at best, reserved optimism. Since the heyday of legendary anthologies like Pebbles and Back From The Grave, the inevitable exhausting of quality material has resulted in a wasteland of watered-down successors."
However, in just a couple of years, Big Beat has sorted through the massive catalogue of the Pacific Northwest's most prolific 60s garage band label, Jerden Records (spawning ground of the Kingsmen's immortal Louie Louie), to collect almost any highlight worth mentioning into a pair of 30-song, explosive compact discs. Titled Northwest Battle Of The Bands - Volumes One & Two, natch - these comps feature best possible remastering and plenty of previously unissued material. The two collections have delivered as much stomp, shout and work it on out as any series in memory, to the point that it's just a little surprising that Big Beat have dug up enough material for a third installment, out now. They could be forgiven if this latest Jerden round-up disappointed by comparison to its two predecessors. After a few loud spins, however, I'm easily arriving at the opinion that Volume Three holds up hands down. In fact, it is mostly excellent and maybe more out and out punk" than the preceding volumes. A lot of this stuff is already part of any garage nuts vocabulary - the pulverizing Flash & Crash by Rocky & the Riddlers-.-protest-punk from Jim "Harpo" Valley on Don & the Goodtimes' I'm Real-.-the crude R&B-infused classic Take A Look At Me by Mr Lucky & the Gamblers, for example - but they sound light years louder here than on any comp of yore.
Another top draw is the Sonics and instead of issuing another sampling from their '66 Jerden LP, Big Beat somehow managed to dig up an unearthed take of one of the killers from that period, Maintaining My Cool. This set includes screamers galore, most notably another unissued monster, No Name by the Raymarks. Conversely, of the several tracks that deviate from the NW sax/organ/scream-based sound, kudos goes to almost all, for hooking-up their new folk-rock and Mersey melodies with typical PacNW pounding percussion. Heck, even an early incarnation of the bubblegum Hudson Brothers (as the New Yorkers) rock credibly in this guise.
The guitars here are simply not to be believed. The Juveniles go the Ronnie Hawkins route on their cover of Bo Diddley but due to amps on overdrive, it sounds like some kind of 1965 heavy metal. The Train Kept A Rollin' by the Brave New World is similarly gnarly and pegged into the red-.-more like the Swamp Rats than the Sonics. And for sheer schizo, Hunose by the Live Five mixes soft-pop harmonies and harpsichord with super-heavy riffing. It makes a little bit more sense now than it did in '66, but not much! What else can be said 'bout Ski Bum by the Moguls, which is right outta the "Steppin Out" school of hard stomps? Northwest Battle Of The Bands Volume Three (the entire series, for that matter) deserves a spot in your record collection.
By Jeff Jarema
(Jeff Jarema is the man behind the late, lamented Here 'Tis - currently he writes for Hit List magazine)"