The Upshot: Exactly as the title announces—an overview of the early NW rock scene as “viewed” through the lens of a kid who was there at the time and was subsequently inspired to become part of it.
BY FRED MILLS
When is the clichéd tribute album syndrome not clichéd? When the material being covered isn’t presented as yet another vanity project assembled by managers and A&R hacks aiming for the lowest common denominator consumer demographic (hello, all you Beatles/Stones/Hendrix/Led Zep/Ramones/Bob Marley/Nirvana tribs compilers), but rather a heartfelt celebration of the music that inspired the assembled performers to pick up the damn guitar in the first place!
In the collection at hand, it’s a lone performer, and it’s not a single-artist tribute at that, but rather a look at the collective and proximate music of one man’s childhood and teenage years and how it informed his own subsequent artistry. Tom Dyer, majordomo of long-running NW label Green Monkey, logically takes his initial inspiration from the likes of the Sonics, Kingsmen, Wailers, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Fleetwoods, Frantics and others whose “raw goodness,” as he puts it, “is permanently aligned with my caveman brain.” There was a secondary inspiration for Dyer as well: 1976 regional retrospective The History of Northwest Rock Volume 1, originally issued by Jerry Dennon’s Great Northwest Music Company label (Dennon of course being the man behind legendary NW label Jerden Records) and which here provided the basic tracklisting, Dyer fleshing the CD out with some more of his faves. Assembling some of his likeminded, long-memoried cavemen pals—Green Pajamas’ Joe Ross and Jeff Kelly, Scott Vanderpool and Scott Sutherland of the King County Queens, producer Steve Fisk—Dyer tucked into a remake/remodel/rewire project of meaty proportions.
From start to finish, the record’s a 15-track gas, chock full of familiar gems and obscure nuggets. Among the “likes” you might be thumbs-upping at a social media outlet very soon: the Raiders’ “Hungry,” served up raw and bloody, no medium-cooked meat for Dyer & Co. (there’s also a cover of “Just Like Me”), the Ventures’ timeless surf instro “Walk Don’t Run,” just to remind you that these cats weren’t from SoCal but from Tacoma, Wash.; the Frantics’ “Werewolf,” a freaky, sleazy instro that wouldn’t be out of place on one of those Songs the Cramps Taught Us collections; “Angel of the Morning” by Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts, a sure-to-surprise-you pop classic if you were expecting a straight up garage set from Dyer (and for my money, as one who owns the original 45, far truer to the original Chip Taylor-penned tune than country songstress Juice Newton’s watered-down cover; and of course “Louie Louie,” which in Dyer’s hands takes not only a huge left turn but an unplanned detour down an alley, across the freeway, and off into the hinterlands, so unique is the arrangement.
In his notes Dyer calls this his own “revisionist Northwest history” with “no attempt to duplicate the originals.” Instead, he set out to capture the DIY spirit and the maverick vibe that the songs’ creators represented. Methinks he succeeded.
DOWNLOAD: “Louie Louie,” “Angel Of the Morning,” “Hungry,” “She’s Boss” (by the Dimensions)