Rating: 3 stars ***
Catalog: DSX 50127
Country/State: Glendale, California
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG
Comments: gatefold sleeve; promo copy; minor ring wear
Catalog ID: 5880
Alright, I'll readily admit I bought this one for the album cover - I'm a push over for jukeboxes and never had a chance when I saw this one.
Showcasing the talents of bassist Rosemary Butler, keyboardist Sherry Hagler, and lead guitarist Shele Pinizzotto, Birtha came together in 1967. Butler and Pinizzotto had started their musical careers as members of The Rapunzels while attending high school and Los Angeles. Under the name Rosemary Lane, Butler had been a member of The Ladybirds whose major claim to fame was having opened for The Rolling Stones during one of their Spring 1965 American shows. When The Ladybirds broke up she hooked up with friend Pinizzotto (then playing as Shel Le) in The Daisy Chain who recorded an interesting and hard to find LP "Straight or Lame" for United International (catalog number LPM-13001 / LPS-13001). By 1967 Butler and Pinizzotto had formed Birtha with the addition of keyboard player Sherry Hagler. The following year they added drummer Olivia 'Liver' Favela to the lineup and spent the next three years touring the West Coast. They finally got their shot at the big time in 1972 when producer Gabriel Mekler signed them to ABC Dunhill.
Dunhill promo photo: left to right - Hagler - Pinzzotto - Butler - Favela
Mekler and Dunhill were clearly interested in cashing in on the same demographics that saw Reprise score with the all-girl band Fanny. Dunhill's marketing plan culminated in a hideous ad campaign built around the phrase 'Birtha Has Balls'. For what it was worth, Birtha's hard rocking sound wasn't all that different from Fanny and while critics were generally deferential to the former, that wasn't the case for Birtha or their 1972 debut "Birtha". Rolling Stone gave the album a good review, but at least one nationally published music critic slammed the album while managing to suggest the quartet were dykes. While it wasn't the most original set you've ever heard, anyone doubting a "chick" band could rock, had to be impressed by original material such as 'Free Spirit', 'Judgment Day' (featuring a great Favela drum solo) and 'Too Much Woman (For a Hen Pecked Man)'. Having three members contribute material didn't hurt, nor did having three lead vocalists. In fact. song for song the performances were easily as good as anything Fanny, Isis, or Joy of Cooking were kicking out during the same period.
- 'Free Spirit' was the collection's best performance. Nice rocker with a suitably snarling vocal from Favela (they should have let her handle more vocals) and a great Pinizzotto guitar solo (who said girls couldn't play guitar?). Easy to see why Dunhill tapped it as a single. rating: **** stars
- Opening with a nice Butler bass line 'Fine Talking Man' quickly degenerated into a routine blues-rocker. Yeah, it generated some energy but the over-the-top, yell-from-every-mountain ending killed it. rating: ** stars
- 'Tuesday' was a decent blues-rocker with a catchy hook that was unfortunately somewhat marred by a shrill lead vocal from Butler. She literally sounded like she was about to lose a lung on this one. Blame producer Mekler for recording it so loud. rating: ** stars
- With the exception of a nice lead guitar solo from Shele Pinizzotto (perhaps the album's best performance), the mid-tempo blues-rocker 'Feeling Lonely' wasn't anything special. Once again Butler screeching vocal and Mekler's muddy mix sapped what ever energy the song had. rating: ** stars
- A pretty and heavily orchestrated ballad, 'She was Good To Me' was the most radio friendly song on the album and the only one to spotlight Pinizzotto on lead vocals. Normally a sappy ballad like this wouldn't do much for me, but this one was interesting if only for the fact it stripped away all of the band's rock-orientation. rating: *** stars
- The first couple of times I heard 'Work On a Dream' it didn't make much of an impression on me, but given time the song's charms have come out including a bouncy hard rock melody and some nice harmony vocals from the four. Musically this one spotlighted Favela who literally kicked the crap out of her drum kit. rating: *** stars
- One of the few non-originals, their cover of Ike Turner's 'Too Much Woman (For a Hen Pecked Man)' was also the album's hardest rocking performance. Favela literally spewed out the lyrics with the rest of the band holding on for dear life. Another nice fuzz solo from Pinizzotto !! rating: **** stars
- 'Judgment Day' found the band taking a break from conventional hard rock with a song that was almost proto-progressive, complete with Uriah Heep-styled keyboards from Hagler. Favela again handled the lead vocal, but this time she abandoned her rock screech for a deeper key that hadn't been heard anywhere before. Very different from the rest of the set and kind of interesting. rating: *** stars
- Co-written by Favela and producer Mekler, 'Forgotten Soul' started out as a stark ballad with Favela pulling out her best Janis Joplin impersonation. Unfortunately, the end result was shrill and over-the-top. Interestingly about two thirds of the way in, Butler kicked in with a killer slinky bass line, sending the song in a totally different and much more likable direction. Shame it didn't start out with that groove. rating: ** stars
Dunhill also tapped the album for a single:
- 1972's ''Free Spirit' b/w 'Working On a Dream' (Dunhill catalog number 45-4328)
Frankly better than most of the Fanny, Isis, or Joy of Cooking LPs, but it could have been even better had ABC and Mekler not pushed them to out rock their male competition.
The band toured extensively in support of the LP, including opening for The Kinks on a quick English tour, though it didn't do a great deal commercially, the set stalling at # 209 on the album charts.
"Birtha" track listing:
1.) Free Spirit (M. Pinizzotto) - 2:49
2.) Fine Talking Man (Rosemary Butler - M. Pinizzotto - Sherry Hagler) - 5:56
3.) Tuesday (Rosemary Butler - M. Wickham) - 3:23
4.) Feeling Lonely (Rosemary Butler) - 4:21
5.) She was Good To Me (M. Pinizzotto) - 2:21
1.) Work On a Dream (M. Pinizzotto) -
2.) Too Much Woman (For a Hen Pecked Man) (Ike Turner) -
3.) Judgment Day (Vegas) -
4.) Forgotten Soul (Olivia Favela - Gabriel Mekler) -
For anyone interested, there's a small Birtha website at: