Bring back the Sonics.
Bring back the Sonics. Light in the Attic Records

On February 21, Light in the Attic Records is releasing Kearney Barton: Architect of the Northwest Sound, a 29-track compilation that demonstrates the late Seattle audio engineer's mixing-console wizardry. The double album offers a rich, diverse array of artists who came through Barton's studio in the '60s and '70s, including Ann Wilson's pre-Heart group, the Daybreaks, garage-rock pioneers the Sonics and the Wailers, avant-garde vocalist Patty Waters, soul greats Woody Carr and Black on White Affair, Indian sitarist Prabha Devi, Ron Gardner's post-Wailers rock group Sweet Rolle, and jazz drummer Chuck Mahaffey & the Individuals, who feature fusion guitar god Larry Coryell making his studio debut. This collection (for which I wrote the liner notes) should do much to raise the profile of Barton, who died in 2012 at age 80. You can hear snippets of the tracks here.

In an interview I conducted with Barton in 2011, he said, "I've been credited with originating the Northwest sound, whatever that is. I really drove the tape recorders, so I got a lot of punch and presence. It had an intensity that you didn't have on a lot of records. I was one of the first [engineers] to emphasize drum tuning."

University of Washington archivist John Vallier, who digitized hundreds of hours of reels from Barton's collection, told me in an interview for the liner notes: "However diverse, there is a commonality that stands out among his recordings: hardcore analog fidelity. It sounds like you are in the room with the drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. The mix is minimum. It’s a raw, sonic reality, even if the band is poppy and jangly. It’s an honest sound that doesn’t sugarcoat what’s being performed."

Preceding the release of Kearney Barton: Architect of the Northwest Sound, Seattle's KING 5 will air a segment on the album for its Evening program on February 6 at 7:30 pm. Then on Saturday, March 7 (2-4 pm), Light in the Attic Records shop will host a record-release party with KEXP DJ Greg Vandy spinning the album. LITA has invited several of the musicians on the comp to sign records at the event.