Each month in Willona on Wax, Willona Sloan reviews new vinyl, reissues, and vintage finds. For her first installment, she reviews a Soul Jazz comp of lesser-known Northwestern grunge bands, and an Analog Africa comp of psychedelic sounds from Benin and Togo.
No Seattle: Forgotten Sounds of the North-West Grunge Era 1986-97 (Volume One)
Compilation by Soul Jazz Records
The thing is, I really wanted to like this record. From the first song I heard — Thrillhammer’s “Alice’s Palace” — I knew that I would.
The majority of the bands on No Seattle never got record deals; they didn’t tour extensively outside of the North-West region and they didn’t achieve fame; therefore, their output was often raw and unpolished. The liner notes set the context for how tiny the rock scenes were in these small towns in Washington and Oregon, where the floor breaking from the walls at a house show could be a band’s biggest (or at least most memorable) gig — as it was for the band Pod.
It’s easy now to see how Nirvana evolved from this music scene. The band’s Bleach-era songs fit neatly into this musical context, where bands were blending hard rock, metal and punk with throaty vocals that matched the ferocity of the music.
Often, comps lose steam and focus, but Volume One is solid all the way through. Stand-outs include the delightful Starfish track “This Town;” a grungy, psychedelic tune by Yellow Snow called “Take Me For A Ride;” and Crunchbird’s erratic and emo “Woodstock Unvisited.”
Packaging: Double LP with a digital download code. The liner notes explain the idea behind the comp and give brief band bios.
Where to Get It: Purchase No Seattle from Soul Jazz Records here.
African Scream Contest—Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds from Benin & Togo 70s
Compilation by Analog Africa
While record shopping in downtown Athens, GA, I saw this amazing album cover propped on display: an African singer, leaning cool, dark sunglasses, flared bottoms and a rock ‘n’ roll mic tilt that meant business.
This marvelously funky, groovy compilation reissues singles from popular 1960’s and 1970’s artists from Benin and Togo. The compilation is the painstaking work of an enthusiastic German-based collector who selected the included tracks from the thousands of records he discovered during crate-digging expeditions in the two countries during the early 2000’s. In his notes, Samy Ben Redjeb explains that during the 1960’s and 1970’s the music of Benin and Togo was influenced primarily by Cuban and Brazilian rhythms; Congolese-style Highlife; French-African music, local traditional music, which included music used during Vodun (Voodoo) ceremonies; as well as American soul and funk.
Despite being a mishmash of influences, the compilation works well as a unit of highly danceable tunes. Standouts include “Oya Ka Jojo” by Les Volcans De la Capital; “Mi Kple Dogbekpo” by Lokonon André & Les Volcans; “Se Na Min” by El Rego et Ses Commandos and “Gbeti Madjro” by Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou (video below).
Packaging: The inserts include interviews with the musicians, many of whose records have been long out of print.
Where to Get It: You can order the vinyl or CD or get digital downloads from Analog Africa here.