When psychedelic all-girl quartet Honey Ltd. recorded these songs back in the Sixties, they weren’t even aware that these tracks were intended to make up an LP, instead believing them to be a selection of singles. As such, The Complete Lhi Recordings has a bunch of tracks which are a touch underdeveloped, as well as suffering from an uneven sense of pacing to the record overall. But in spite of all this, there’s a singularity to these songs which distinguishes them from their most obvious peers, and goes some way to explaining why hyper-rare original pressings of this LP now sell in excess of £1000.
Whether by design or by accident, a couple of moments in the opening passages of this collection set a tone which makes the remainder of the record incredibly commanding. Opening track ‘Warrior’ boasts a flower-power chorus of “it’s good! Everybody knows it’s good! Let me hear you say ‘it’s good’!” in full voiced, four part harmony. In both sound and mood, it’s an obvious cousin to something like ‘It’s Getting Better’ by the Mamas and Papas. That is, until the nonchalant delivery of the second-verse line “we must kill more people, strong men are what we need” jarringly subverts the tone with blackly-ironic commentary on the Vietnam War, betraying an uncompromising sharpness at the core of these songs. It’s a tiny detonation, with a far-reaching effect.
The difference between these moments and something like ‘He Hit Me’ by The Crystals is the relish Honey Ltd. take in innocently drawing in the listener before pushing in the pin. Songs like ‘I’ve Got Your Man’ accelerate through their most strummed-up, loved-up hooks before suddenly peeling back to softly declare, “I’ve got your man. There’s nothing you can do” with a disarming lack of remorse. After being blindsided by a couple of these payoffs, you’re sucked in – immersed in every line, and waiting for blows which don’t always come.
To be drawn so closely into these songs is wonderfully rewarding, with the four part arrangements of the girls about as dreamy, luxurious and assured as anything the era ever showcased. Songs like ‘No, You Are’ and ‘I’m So Glad’ demonstrate how each of their voices can meld as equal parts in an ethereal swirl of harmony, while cuts like ‘Come Down’ and ‘Silk N Honey’ show how the band can just as effectively separate into trio and lead; playing the Supremes to a Diana.
The problems kick in when you reflect on the tellingly mealy-mouthed title of The Complete Lhi Recordings – a name which makes the full admission that these songs never really hinged together as an honest-to-goodness LP. As a result, a lot of these songs play out as impressive but unfinished sketches designed primarily to showcase how brilliantly Honey Ltd. meld as a unit, while often failing to reach the material’s full potential.
The original commercial failure of these tracks are all the more frustrating when you suspect that Honey Ltd. could have delivered a genuinely brilliant record, given time – a record which played to their three primary strengths of solid hooks, perfect harmonies, and sharp lyricism in a more joined up and consistent way. But nonetheless, taken as a relic which builds the unlikely bridge between Pentangle and the riot-grrl movement via Sixties-pop, there’s a real richness to this thankfully excavated LP, even if it’s as simple as the interaction between the four voices themselves.
7Russell Warfield's Score