Album Review

The Wailers - The Fabulous Wailers At The Castle

The Wailers

The Fabulous Wailers At The Castle


Release Date: January 17th, 1962

Words by: Russell Webster
January 9th, 1962


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The Wailers, often referred to as The Fabulous Wailers, were an American rock band from Tacoma, Washington. After a brief stint in New York in 1960 The Wailers returned to Tacoma and recorded a live set at the infamous 'Castle' which resulted in the live album, 'The Fabulous Wailers at the castle'. A stunning live album that successfully shows why this band is widely regarded as one of the forefathers of the 1960s Garage Rock movement – a scene that would arguably evolve into punk rock.

The record starts off with 'The Wailers House Party' and instantly The Wailers demonstrate the reason they went on to become so influential – feel. When discussing music, the 'feel' is often a difficult concept to broach on paper dealing as it does with micro units of rhythmic timing and musical chemistry between band members that can border on telepathy. But the notion of feel must be used in order to explain why this grinding instrumental by The Wailers can fill the listener with an electrical current that makes the limbs want to fly in every direction at once, while the same song played by another band can provoke literally NO response whatsoever.

Although its not hard to imagine instrumentals such as the aforementioned opener, and hit single 'Tall Cool One' whipping the crowd at The Castle that night into a frenzy, after a while they do tend to become somewhat repetitive and tiresome on record. Thankfully however, the set is punctuated with incredible vocal performances by a rotating lead roster of Ken Morrill, Rockin' Robin Roberts and Little Gail Harris. After a selection of lively numbers by both Roberts and Morill, the record reaches an ecstatic peak on 'I Idolize You' with girl group shouter Gail Harris delivering a throat shredding performance over a storming organ based r&b groove. The rawness of her shrieks truly sends the shivers down the spine and helps the listener to clearly picture the audience that night standing in complete and utter awe at the sheer untamed primitive energy on display here. Also worth mentioning with this particular tune is the way the recording constraints of the time have actually enhanced the emotional intensity. For example, every time Harris lets loose a mighty wail, the levels frequently soar right into the red, producing a wonderful tape distortion. The likes of which many more recent lo-fi acts have often tried to emulate with modern software.

Musician and theorist Brian Eno has often commented on the nature of music before and after the advent of the studio. He notes that the studio has helped give birth to an entirely new form of art that should be called something other than music. 'The Fabulous Wailers Live at the Castle' captures something very special from a time before the recording studio and its' possibilities had made an impact on music as a whole. It's live rawness and feel provide somewhat of a template for the garage scene that followed and evolved into punk, and as such its' an album that is guaranteed to wake you up.

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