Various Artists

Northwest Battle of the Bands, Vol. 3: I'm Walkin' Babe! [Sundazed]

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Judging by how many CD collections have dug into the holdings of '60s Northwest rock producer Jerry Dennon, one might think that those are nearly as valuable as, say, the Chess records catalog. They're not, but this 25-track anthology of 1964-68 Northwest rock is okay, exhibiting the expected strengths and weaknesses of the genre. The strengths are an unrelenting brazen youthful energy. The weaknesses are a lack of superb melodic invention, or of great stylistic originality. It's been pointed out in other reviews, but nonetheless has to be restated, that the bands often leaned heavily on derivative R&B-derived rhythms and riffs, which crops up on some of these tracks, though not as many as on some other Northwest comps. The harder-edged sounds of the British Invasion are also an influential force on many of the songs, whether it's traces of the hard-nosed organ-led sound of Them and the Animals, the raveups of the Yardbirds, the subtler keyboard melodics and harmonies of the Zombies, or the general attitude of the Rolling Stones; some of the more ferocious aspects of fellow Northwesterners Paul Revere & the Raiders sneak in too. Still, the songs generally fall between killer and filler, being respectably forceful and listenable, but not incredibly memorable. You probably won't recognize any of the groups, with the exceptions of the Sonics, whose undeniably classic but at this point overanthologized "Psycho" is here, and perhaps Don & the Goodtimes (represented by a cover of the Sonics' "The Witch"). Of the more unknown offerings, the Ceptors' 1967 single "I Can't Make It" is about the best, with its alternation of anguished garage soul-pop with Yardbirds-influenced hyper-fast instrumental breaks. Also pretty good, and pretty curious, is the minor-keyed organ-paced 1966 driver by Tyme's Children, which was co-written by a pre-Blood, Sweat and Tears David Clayton-Thomas. Half a dozen of the tracks were previously unissued.

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