Various Artists

Riot City!: Rocking Northwest Instrumentals

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The Pacific Northwest, as even some casual rock listeners knew by the 21st century, was a hotbed of activity for instrumental rock groups, usually heavily R&B-influenced, in the first half of the '60s. Riot City! is a compilation of instros released during that era by the Jerden label and its subsidiaries, along with four previously unreleased cuts from its vaults. Actually this focuses almost wholly on 1963-1965 rather than the very early '60s, as the Northwest instrumental sound continued blaring on record for a year or two after the British Invasion had made such an approach passé. One won't find the relatively best-known exponents of the Pacific Northwest instrumental sound -- the Wailers and of course the Ventures -- here. Even to serious collectors, Don & the Goodtimes (better known as a vocal pop/rock group) are the only band who might have a familiar ring. The Northwest sound was chunky, thumping rhythms built around basic, repetitive riffs, using some saxes and organs as well as guitars. That's what one gets here, and it would have been more exciting to hear this at youth dances -- the natural context of this music -- than one after the other (31 in all) on a CD. Actually it might have been oft-monotonous live too, and this is just an average instrumental rock compilation, a little odder than most in that the style had passed out of fashion by the time many of these numbers were recorded. The freneticism does get pretty amazing at times, as on the Juveniles' organ-on-speed arrangement of "I've Got a Woman." As some welcome variation, the Chessmen, from Vancouver, mimic the Shadows well on "Mr. Meadowlands"; a young Terry Jacks plays the rhythm guitar. Pre-fame big names also appear on the two sides by Sir Raleigh & the Cupons, who had future Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin (who adds novelty spoken vocals to their "Somethin' or Other"), future Flying Burrito Brothers guitarist Pete Kleinow, and ex-Gene Vincent lead guitarist Johnny Meeks.

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