Containing both of the Wailers' first two albums on Etiquette (1961's The Fabulous Wailers at the Castle and 1964's The Wailers and Co.), this is a good summary of the group's early-'60s recordings, particularly as it adds half a dozen bonus tracks from 1961-1964 singles. The live At the Castle album is a historically important document of the early-'60s Northwest sound, spotlighting a white band that could play tough rock & roll with a heavy R&B influence. Mixing hard-driving percussion with guitars, sax, and organ, it was divided between instrumentals (including a version of the 1959 hit "Tall Cool One") and numbers with vocals by Kent Morrill, Rockin' Robin Roberts (who had sung lead on the Wailers' 1961 "Louie Louie" single), and young teenage girl Gail Harris. This doesn't mean, mind you, that the music's that great. In fact, the songs are too repetitive to hold up as well for record listeners as they must have for dancers at their shows. When Harris takes the mic for covers of Etta James' "All I Could Do Was Cry" and Ike & Tina Turner's "I Idolize You," though, the results are astonishingly fierce, throat-ripping soul for such a young white woman of the era, making one regret she didn't record more at the time. Released in 1964, The Wailers and Co. was actually a collection of material that had appeared on 1961-1963 singles, fleshed out with some then-recent outtakes. It might have been a pasted-together affair, but musically it was respectable, highlighted by their influential 1961 cover of "Louie Louie" (with Rockin' Robin Roberts on vocal), the first rock version of the song to bear strong similarity to the arrangement eventually made into a huge hit by fellow Northwesterners the Kingsmen. The rest of it was a real hodgepodge of early-'60s pre-British Invasion styles, from the blatant "Surfin' USA" rip-off "Partytime USA" and the R&B-girl group dish "Shoo Fly Pie" (the latter with the Marshans on vocals) to the squawking Little Richard imitation "Isabella." The main item on the menu, though, was the group's stock-in-trade R&B-rock instrumentals with saxophone and organ, played with tough conviction yet based on too-repetitive, ordinary riffs. Occasionally those instrumentals were more memorable, though, as on "Doin' the Seaside" and "Frenzy," both of which have some Booker T. & the MG's-strength guitar-organ interplay. The bonus cuts largely contain more of the same R&B-based material, both vocal and instrumental, though Gail Harris is heard from again on the 1961 single "Be My Baby" (written by Kent Morrill). Also among the bonus tracks are a 1964 remake of "Tall Cool One" and the girl group-influenced "I Remember," with vocals by the Marshans.
Share this page