Liverpool's illustrious Viper Label have recently spoilt us with an expanded version of THE LA'S seminal archival collection 'Callin' All' but with the download-only 'De Freitas Session' they have unearthed another important find from this influential band's highly-prized vault.
A 'live in the studio' affair recorded around April/ May 1987, this 11-song set was laid down at Echo & The Bunnymen's Liverpool demo studio. The 'De Freitas' in the title refers to the Buns' much-missed and super-talented drummer Pete De Freitas and the tight and drilled recording catches the Lee Mavers-helmed version of The La's on the cusp of signing to the Go! Discs label.
Weighty tomes have, of course, already been written about the obsessive Mavers' attempts to capture the 'intimacy' of The La's sound in the studio. Personally, I feel The La's had already cracked it with their much-vaunted 4-track recordings while the band still featured Mike Badger during a feverishly-creative 1986. Both editions of the 'green' 'Callin' All' album (not to mention Viper's sister 'blue' album, 'Breakloose: 1984-86') make it abundantly clear that they were ready to take on all comers before an internal power struggle found Badger ousted from his own band during the Christmas period of 1986.
Thus, 'The De Freitas Session' features the line-up of The La's initially signed by Go! Discs, with Lee Mavers, bassist John Power and drummer John 'Timmo' Timson joined by lead guitarist Paul Hemmings. Most of the songs (including the brooding, diablo-infused brilliance of the controversial 'Callin' All' itself) had already been perfected during the Mike Badger era but it's not difficult to hear why this concise, 30-minute set would have been enough to have the labels salivating.
Material-wise, there's nothing you won't already know intimately. 'Timeless Melody”s middle section hasn't quite fallen into place at this stage and there's no 'There She Goes' as yet, but there's no denying a sweet'n'tender 'Way Out', an especially malicious burst through the evil rockabilly of 'Failure' and a fine and swampy 'Liberty Ship' where the timeless Bo Diddley beat gets kicked into glorious submission. Hemmings' dextrous lead guitar meshes beautifully with Mavers' rhythm playing while John Power and the often-overlooked Timson make like a commanding and confident rhythm section throughout. The sound is slightly reverb-y, but it captures that dirty, intimate ambience and 'dogstar' guitar sound so beloved of Mavers with apparent ease and comes up smelling like an important addition to The La's small, but timelessly vibrant body of work.
Universal Records are currently making a lot of noise about a 4-CD box set of La's recordings due to be released in May 2010. From what I can gather, it seems to be made up from a myriad of live recordings, unreleased tracks from the band's countless studio sessions with heavyweight producers such as John Porter and Bob Andrews and is going to be unleashed as – wait for it – 'Callin' All'. This move seems mystifying as The Viper Label have already presented us with a definitive collection of early La's recordings under the same name and now, with 'The De Freitas Session', they again prove that it's their archival releases which really count.
The De Freitas Session at The Viper Label.