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Album Review

THE DYNAMICS
With Jimmy Hanna
1960-1965

Of course, not all of the tracks on this excellent two-CD compilation are with Jimmy Hanna, but that makes no never mind. Truth is, The Dynamics were a force in the Pacific Northwest not unlike Paul Revere & The Raiders and The Wailers. All three were on the scene early, repertoires top heavy with instrumentals, and all three had a tremendous impact on NW bands in the mid- to late-60s--- bands like Don & the Goodtimes, The Sonics, The Kingsmen, and The Viceroys, among others. Indeed, there was hardly a band in the region that wasn't forced to hand up something from each band's playlist--- most notably J.A.J. (The Dynamics via Dave Lewis), Night Train (The Raiders via Jimmy Forrest and others--- here is an interesting story about how it came to be), and Tall Cool One (The Wailers). Those were incestuous days of sock hops and teen dances and those teens could be brutal regarding the favorites of the moment.

Thus it is that The Dynamics latched on to whichever song caught their fancy and made it their own. Pop, jazz, soul, R&B--- no genre was beyond their reach, though they leaned a bit more toward R&B than most other NW bands. Let us just say that for their time, their roots were a bit deeper than most and more varied.

Looking back, they were a band constantly in motion, players changing on the edge of a solid core. Those players gained an enormous amount of respect from other musicians if no one else and included names like Jeff Afdem, who later morphed the Dynamics into The Springfield Rifle and had a couple of monster NW hits. Like brother Terry Afdem and Larry Coryell and Marcus Doubleday and Harry Wilson and Pete Borg and Gary Snyder and Ron Woods and, of course, Jimmy Hanna--- all musicians of note and some of notoriety. All keys to the band and the music.

There is no need to go into the history here. Neal Skok does that in detail, and very nicely indeed, in a beautiful 16-page insert booklet covering the various phases of the band. It is a history little known outside Seattle's city limits, oddly enough. The band was legend beyond those limits, imposed largely due to the limitations of travel (most were in school during the band's run), and yet cast its influence wide. In those days, musicians haunted record stores and when any band from the Northwest released a single, they knew about it and many times learned it for the next gig. Like I said, those were incestuous days.

As for myself, I did not have the luck to see The Dynamics live. They were legend in the Oregon, possibly as much because they seldom if ever played that far south. I knew the music, but my real education came later in the form of Tom and Ellen Ogilvy who ran Seafair-Bolo, the band's label. It was the very late seventies or even very early eighties and I was putting together a display of information about vintage NW rock in a record store at which I worked when a short and round man wearing a yachtsman's cap stopped by. He asked if I was the guy putting together the display and I said I was. He said, with a smile as wide as his face and with hand outstretched, “I'm Tom Ogilvy and I don't know if you know me, but I ran Bolo Records.” With one handshake, we became immediate friends, or so it seemed.

Soon, I was invited to his home to look over memorabilia and to meet the other half of the operation, his lovely wife, Ellen. The two were genuine and warm and were soon telling me stories--- vignettes from the movie that was their life, for many of the stories read more like a creation of a screenwriter than reality. Mr. Ogilvy told of Big Jay McNeely and Guitar Shorty and Bumps Blackwell, and Mrs. Ogilvy described Larry Coryell falling asleep in their basement, guitar across his lap and amp still on, having played himself to sleep. She giggled with delight when she mentioned how Coryell gave her the nickname of “Dragon Lady,” for Coryell was close to her heart, as were all of the members of The Dynamics. Afterwards, every time we met, I encouraged her to repeat that story just to see her face light up with what I can only describe as pure joy. Indeed, the names of the individual Dynamics fell from her lips often, not for name-dropping's sake, but for her genuine concern for their well-being, past and present.

They gave me records. In spite of my protests, they went through boxes of records which they kept in the basement, pulling out one of everything they could find and handing them to me as if it were nothing, though we all knew better. They knew I was as happy to receive them as they were to give them and I relive those moments on a regular basis and with sadness because it does not seem fair to the world that two such wonderful people are no longer with us.

That was my introduction to the Ogilvys and to The Dynamics. Recently, when Neal Skok mentioned that Seafair-Bolo, still in existence, had released a two-CD package, I was curious to say the least. He arranged for a copy to be mailed to me and when it arrived, I confess to being a bit leery. I mean, taking music from the past, especially from the vaults of a label like Seafair-Bolo, can turn ugly. My concern was whether they messed with the recordings, took something out or added something in the transition to digital. I've seen it happen too many times before to place trust in anyone's hands when it comes to music, especially vintage music like this.

I shouldn't have worried. The small group of people who are involved with the company now (including the Ogilvy's son, James--- ahem, that would be Jimmy Hanna to you) have the same concerns as myself. I think the term is kid gloves. Yes. They handled this project with kid gloves.

Not having heard the original tapes, I cannot attest to what they did, but what they did not do was mess with what ended up on the 45s. I pulled a handful of the old 45s out and compared a few tracks, vinyl against digital, and they are as true as they can be. I mean, if you want to float back to the early sixties to, say, the basement of Joe Boles' house, if that is where some of these were recorded, you can. The sound is basic and clean and I swear to God it feels like you're there. This is in-your-face stuff, raw only in the sense that it is live. And you get the full range of The Dynamics, beginning to end--- the basic four man group which gave us classics like J.A.J. and early originals like Wild Girl to the expanded band with Jimmy Hanna on vocals. You get the 45s as they were recorded and pressed, yes, but you get more. You get twelve previously unreleased tracks from the vaults--- unreleased not because they were not up to snuff but because those were the days of the 45 and sometimes tracks just fell through the cracks.

My favorites? J.A.J., of course, because it was the one track by The Dynamics which received blanket airplay all over the Northwest, and Candido, because I always had a thing for Dave Lewis who was as close to a regional star as you could get in those days without busting out nationally. Trick Bag because unlike the many songs everybody played, only a few bands used it and, man, you could dance to it, like all those kids on Bandstand used to say. I Pity the Fool because it is a good version of a great song, and Busybody because there was this side of The Dynamics which leaned more toward soul than their contemporaries and which I loved. Let us just say that it separated them from the mold.

Seriously, if you know The Dynamics or if you are a collector of the vintage sounds, you should at least check this out (available here). These guys were among the best of the early NW bands and, what the hell? It'll only take a few moments of your time. I mean, the people who knew the music are getting fewer by the day. Reliving the music certainly won't kill them and might just spark a few brain cells back to life. I mean, those were good days. And that is still good music.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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