Letters To Cleo
Dot-Rat/Wicked Disc Records
For years, I had heard about the mysterious “first” album of Letters To Cleo. Found only on cassette, Sister was in circulation amongst a select few Cleo fans while the rest of us were forced to search aimlessly for someone with a sharing heart. “Don’t bother,” many people who had already gotten their hands on the tape would say. “It’s really bad sound quality, anyway.” And so, for over four years, I lived in wonderment as to what this relic of Cleo history had to show for itself. Then finally, someone decided it would be a good idea to completely re-master the album and release it. But really, was it worth the four-year anticipation to finally find out what I was missing?
You bet it was.
Sister is marvelous. The sound quality, thanks to the re-mastering, is that of a top-quality studio recording; the guitars are crisp, the drums are powerful, and Kay Hanley’s voice is as sweet and melodious as ever. The songs are exactly what you’d expect from Letters To Cleo, including many softer tunes and the kind of tight rock songs that have put them on the map. And although most of the tunes were written and recorded before 1992, they still have that undeniable Letters To Cleo feel that make them one of the catchiest and most enjoyable bands out there today.
The album kicks off with an older and, in some ways, better version of “I See,” which also makes its appearance on their debut album, Aurora Gory Alice . From there, the album only gets better, including some of the best tunes I’ve ever heard from them. Namely “Never Tell,” which starts off with an almost carnival-like keyboard riff, only to start rocking, drop out for a slower emotional feel, and then dive right back into the high-energy. Then there’s a cover of Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra’s “Secret Agent,” which is such a neat song that you can’t help but sing along the first time you hear it.
Letters To Cleo has evolved over the years, but this album is a testament that what they had originally started as kicked just as much ass as what they’ve come to be. If you had ever enjoyed the band on any of their other albums, Sister fits right into what you’d come to expect. It rocks, it gets smoothed out at points, and it’ll leave you wanting more. And if you already had the original tape, the album contains four extra songs for your listening pleasure. Without a doubt, this really was worth the wait.
Letters To Cleo Inc., 32 Oak Square Ave., Brighton, MA 02135-2517; http://www.letterstocleo.com