May 22, 2011

MAGGIE BELL - SUICIDE SAL (POLYDOR 1975) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 2 bonus

Although critically feted in the U.K., Bell, both solo and with her former band Stone the Crows, never quite achieved the commercial breakthrough everyone had so expected. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, Bell's recording career was punctuated by a sole Stone the Crows charting album. With that band's demise in 1973, the soul singer went solo, releasing the (again) critically acclaimed Queen of the Night album, with 1975's Suicide Sal following. A tougher, more energized set than its predecessor, Sal's electrifying live feel reflects the incendiary stage shows Bell and her new backing band had been playing in the intervening time between recordings. The two bonus tracks, recorded at a gig later that year, capture their live ferocity. Intriguingly, the funky, fiery title track, an homage to Bell's Aunt, a music hall star, is one of only two originals on this set. The second, the lavishly bluesy "If You Don't Know" was penned by band keyboardist Pete Wingfield, and boasts a guesting Jimmy Page on guitar. The storming "Coming on Strong" also has a Bell connection, being co-penned by ex-Crow Colin Allen and Zoot Money. The rest of the album comprises astutely chosen covers drawn from an eclectic selection of artists. One of the standouts is "It's Been So Long," a powerful gospel number written by the Pretty Things' Phil May, who not only rewrote some of the lyrics for Bell, but added his backing vocals to the song. Free's classic "Wishing Well" gets a sensational workout, while that band's offshoot Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu & Rabbit's "Hold On" is taken to new emotive heights. From barrelling Beatles pop to the Sutherland Brothers poignant Gaelic ode, from ballads to hefty rock & roll, Bell struts across this set with style and such assurance, that even Aunt Sal must have been impressed. One of Britain's greatest soul singers, showcased at her best, this magnificent album also includes an excellent, expansive biography of this crucial artist.[allmusic]

MONUMENT - THE FIRST MONUMENT (BEACON 1971) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

More than an independent band, MONUMENT are an offshoot of British hard rock band ZIOR, who released two albums in the early Seventies. Their only album, "The First Monument", is the result of an all-night, drunken jam session involving the four members of ZIOR. The album features a heavy, distorted, Hammond-drenched sound, and ZIOR's trademark occult lyrical themes.[progarchives]
By 1971, when this album was first released, it had become somewhat trendy amongst the underground fraternity to actively participate in practises such as ritual magic, occult arts and various other esoteric customs. With music very much to the fore of this scene, a twilight culture unfurled linking mysticism to it in the form of groups inspired by their own self interest and beliefs.
While special imagery and gimmicks were an all important part of such groups presentation there were those, like Monument, whose fascination for the occult drove them away from seeking to glamourise their image. Vocalist and keyboards man Steven Lowe was a founder member of a witches coven in Essex and this keen interest in the ancient craft served to shape much of the lyrical content of their sole album, which is steeped in sorcery and mysticism. Monument were short-lived, unlike some of the more commercial outfits with similar leanings striving for recognition...

LITTER - $ 100 FINE (HEXAGON/WARICK 1968) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 19 bonus

Not all of the garage punk spirit was gone from the Litter by the time of their second album, when they were moving in a more hard rock and psychedelic direction. It's not on the level of the debut, however, because the material, about half original and half covers, is often unmemorable, and boring at times. "Mindbreaker" moves along in a pretty crunching garage-pop style with guitar that would have fit in with Distortions, and "Morning Sun" is fair California-type psychedelia with those meltdown sustain guitar riffs. Trendy guitar phasing is all over "Kaleidoscope," and things take a downturn with the blues-rock stomp "Blues One" and a nine-minute cover of "She's Not There."[allmusic]

LITTER - DISTORTIONS (WARICK 1967) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 9 bonus

One of Minneapolis' most popular '60s bands, the Litter are most well-known for their classic 1967 garage rock single "Action Woman." With its demonic fuzz/feedback guitar riffs and cocky, snarling lead vocal, it was an archetype of the tough '60s garage rock favored by fans of the Pebbles reissue series. In fact, the single, which got some airplay in Minnesota in early 1967 and then was largely forgotten, didn't reach an international audience until it became cut one, Side One on Volume One of Pebbles in the late '70s. It now has a place of honor on the Nuggets box set. The Litter were a little more successful and long-lived than the average regional garage band, recording a few albums, the last one for a major label, and evolving into a more progressive hard rock outfit before disbanding around the end of the '60s.
The Litter was formed by members of two Minneapolis area mid-'60s groups, the Victors and the Tabs. (A few songs recorded by the Victors in late 1965 can be heard on the compilation The Scotty Story.) Heavily influenced by the fiercest British Invasion bands such as the Yardbirds and the Who, they recorded their debut single, "Action Woman"/"A Legal Matter," with local producer Warren Kendrick in late 1966. "Action Woman," in fact, was not a Litter original, but a Kendrick composition. Bill Strandlof, who had played the searing guitar lead on "Action Woman," was replaced by Tom "Zippy" Caplan in the spring of 1967, just before they recorded most of the tracks that comprised their debut album. Leaning heavily on covers of songs by British bands like the Yardbirds, the Who, and Small Faces, Distortions was nevertheless a prime example of '60s garage rock at its most powerful. With the garage rock revival, this local release became a coveted collector's item, and has since been reissued several times...................
Like many bands in the late '60s, the Litter subsequently went into a more psychedelic/hard rock direction. Their second album, 0 Fine, put more weight on original material, although their sound was growing more generic. Around this time, the Litter missed out on some potentially big opportunities, turning down offers from both Elektra and Columbia. They appear in a 1968 Chicago psychedelic nightclub scene in political filmmaker Haskell Wexler's classic movie Medium Cool, but only super-briefly; although they're shown playing on-stage, the soundtrack includes none of their music, with the Mothers of Invention's "Flower Punk" overdubbed onto the scene. By the time they did get onto a major label for the 1969 album Emerge (on ABC), Caplan and original lead singer Denny Waite had been replaced, and their hard rock sound had become less distinguished. The Litter have reunited and sometimes continued to play and record, with different lineups, into the '90s.[allmusic]