the slits

One of the first female punk bands of the late seventies was the Slits. Never heard of them? You should.

One of the first female punk bands of the late seventies was the Slits. Never heard of them? You should. They toured with better known acts such as the Clash and White Riot, but did not gain the long-term fame and attention of their tour mates. Koch Records has recently reissued their 1979 recording Cut on CD with two bonus tracks, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Liebe and Romanze.”

When the band formed in 1976, none of the members could play instruments very well, but thanks to the punk movement of the time, that was no impediment to their musical creation. Cut has minimal instrumentation, with heavy emphasis on vocals and percussion, but it works. The producer, Dennis Bovell, came from a reggae background, and this is evident in the recording. The combination of reggae and punk stylings with a feminist approach to rock music gives the recording its unique sound.

It is obvious that the Slits influenced many of the all-girl bands of the 80s like the Go-Go’s and others. The retro music revolution that is sweeping through modern indie bands should pause and take a page from the Slits, as well. Their use of repetitive musical and non-musical sounds, call-and-response, and emphasis on lyrical song crafting are techniques well worth paying attention to.

Don’t expect to find this band on your top 40 radio station or MTV (do they even show videos anymore?), but if the music directors at the college stations are paying attention, this reissue will be heating up the CMJ charts, if it isn’t already.

Article first published as The Slits – Cut on Blogcritics.org

love songs

Only those who are confident that their sweethearts would not dump them for this chanteuse should pick up a copy of this CD.

My first introduction to Marlene Dietrich occurred a few weeks ago when I picked up a copy of the movie Witness for the Prosecution. As an Agatha Christie fan, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see yet one more dramatized version of her writing. I had heard of Dietrich before watching the movie, but it wasn’t until I saw her that I began to understand the attraction so many had (and still have) for her. Needless to say, I was eager to give the new Sony Legacy release Love Songs a spin.

The CD is a collection of songs recorded by Dietrich mainly in the 1950’s, with the first three tracks recorded in 1930 and 1931. A handful of the tracks are available on other recordings, but many have been languishing in vaults or private record collections until Sony picked up the masters and dusted them off. The sound quality is most impressive. Harry Coster did the digital sound restoration, and did it so well that one can hardly tell that the originals were 78s. The three tracks recorded in the 30’s do have that canned sound of recordings from the time, but without much of the hiss and pops of the old records. The rest of the recordings are fuller and warmer, a tribute to not only the re-mastering, but also the improvements in recording technology in the intervening twenty years.

Dietrich’s vocal technique is less than perfect, but her alto voice drips with a seductive quality that makes up for whatever may be lacking. As the liner states, when she sings, she transforms “strong men into masochists and beautiful women into groveling slaves worshipping at the alter [sic] of Sappho.” The CD will be released just in time for lovers shopping for Valentines Day gifts, but only those who are confident that their sweethearts would not dump them for this chanteuse should consider picking up a copy.

Article first published as Marlene Dietrich – Love Songs on Blogcritics.org