There are more famous record labels in Seattle, but none as consistent as Light in the Attic.
Everything Light in the Attic touches is gold. Not transmuted to gold in the King Midas, half-a-million-units-sold sense, but treasure previously buried by history, unseen by all but a few.
See, the Fremont-based label celebrating its 10th anniversary this week is in the reissue business. A small cadre of music lovers handpicks lost albums by brilliant artists and represent them to the world. Artists like Sixto Rodriguez, the 70-year-old Detroit psych-folkie who landed on 60 Minutes last week because Light in the Attic reissued his early-’70s albums three years ago. Artists like the Emerson Brothers from Fruitland, Wash., whose recently reissued 1980 bedroom-soul album Dreamin’ Wild earned them a huge New York Times spread in September. More famous names like Thin Lizzy, Kris Kristofferson, Lee Hazelwood, Bo Diddley, the Louvin Brothers, the Free Design, Serge Gainsbourg… The list goes on.
The point is every release in the LITA catalog is worth investigating. And though I haven’t dug through all hundred-some reissues—not to mention LITA’s few first-offs from cult faves the Black Angels, the Blakes and the Saturday Knights—I’ve spent a lot of time with the label’s offerings. (Full disclosure: I wrote the extensive liner notes to Light in the Attic’s Wheedle’s Groove Box Set that came out last year.) So starting today, I’m sharing my 10 current favorite Light in the Attic tunes two at a time.
Every one of these songs is a hit in an alternative (read: more tasteful) universe. Think of this more as a themed playlist than countdown. Limiting myself to only 10 was painful; my list could and would easily change tomorrow. Also, it’s limited by YouTube availability. Also also, part of what makes these songs so special is often the backstory that accompanies them—stories of musicians making music purely for the music’s sake with little heed paid to commercial success. I’ll provide background where I’m able, but Light in the Attic does a much better job with the lavish liner notes and archival photos they package in each release.
Go forth and discover!
The Monks, “Monk Time” from Black Monk Time
This mid-’60s group of GIs stationed in Germany (including the much-loved, Renton-born Dave Day, RIP) played what’s become known as proto-punk. As Jack White put it, “Their melodies were pop-destructive and must be played to your younger brother.”
Pastor TL Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir, “Like a Ship (Without a Sail)” from Like a Ship (Without a Sail)
From fake monks to real gospel, albeit with a stone-cold groove. Dig that bassline! Religious leader and community activist T.L. Barrett gave this old traditional a deep-soul update in 1971 Chicago. It’s all uplift.
Stay tuned for more goodness throughout the week…