The Northwest sound was massive. Rhythms pounded - guitars screamed -vocals were distorted by over-amplification. This music was meant to be played live to audiences ready to be whipped into a frenzy. The American Northwest states of Oregon and Washington were home to a music scene unlike anything else rooted in pre-Beatle America. The Northwest sound had both feet planted firmly in the 50s and the 60s. No wonder it appeals to 60s garage fiends as much as it does to those seeking out the wildest 50s sounds. Although heavily influenced by 50s rockers like Little Richard, the Northwest sound thrived in an era when self-contained bands ruled the roost. The region which gave birth to hit-makers like the Wailers, the Ventures, the Kingsmen, Don and the Goodtimes and Paul Revere & The Raiders had a self-supporting, independent network of promoters, ballrooms, and record labels.
One such label was Jerry Dennon's legendary Jerden. For Big Beat's second look into Dennon's vaults, Alec Palao has once again come up with gold, teaming the best of the released material with enough unreleased gems to make you wonder why they weren't issued in the first place. This isn't a dusty trawl through a musty archive, but the reanimation of a living, breathing body of work. Where other labels - on their recent Northwest compilations - are content with low-effort skimpy liner notes and a surfeit of previously released material, this CD has full info on all the bands, previously unseen photos and commentary from band members and Jerden's staff. No doubt - this is a definitive package.
Like Volume One in the series, Volume Two is based around one of Jerden's Battle Of The Bands albums, this time Volume Two, originally issued in 1968. Alec has removed the chaff and plugged the gaps with gems from the archive, bringing the original album's 14 tracks up to a massive 30. But of course the pounding, stomping, son-of-Louie-Louie type of description of the Northwest sound is a cliché. It's also somewhat misleading. OK, a great deal of the Northwest bands aimed their music straight for the feet, but there were also scads of musicians going for something more reflective. But whatever the style of the song, Jerden specialised in getting the most dynamic, forceful performance on tape: Jerden's bands weren't tamed by the studio.
Northwest Battle Of The Bands Volume Two gives you a truer picture of what was going on between 1965 and 1968 than any clich?© ever could. The Liberty Party's previously unreleased March 1966 recording of Please Help The Man is based around a minor-key, almost Zombies-like melody, with dollops of proto-raga guitar. The Mercy Boys' Lost And Found shares this moody feel. Above all, this was accessible pop music made by dynamic musicians. Take the Ceptors' November 1967 I Can't Make It. While the soul-influenced vocals evoke a snottier Eric Burdon, the instrumental passages have the edge of a band schooled in baiting audiences with driving instrumentals. Nowhere is the classic idea of the Northwest sound more apparent than on the legendary Sonics' High Time, one of their wildest, highest-octane recordings. No subtlety there.
Northwest Battle Of The Bands Volume Two is a joy. With no clunkers, superb liner notes, great pictures and a thoughtfully consistent running order, you owe it to yourself to accept no substitute.
By Kieron Tyler
(Kieron Tyler writes for Mojo and other fine publications)