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Album Review

Saying this record is a classic product of its time understates — the cover art alone, referring to the title by showing a denim-clad female rear in the hands of a no doubt appreciative fellow, is so beyond irony that Spinal Tap might as well have jacked it in before they started. (It isn't made any less clear by having the full song title on the album be "Handful [Of Love].") Handful, apparently the one album ever recorded by the gleefully scuzzy L.A.-area quartet, recorded and released in a limited run in 1971 specifically to sell at their shows, isn't a lost masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. After generations of completely gone acts from Hawkwind to Monster Magnet taking "boogie" as generally understood to the outer reaches of sanity, Betty are tame in comparison, exuberant rather than hot-wired. That said, and especially for what must have been a quick and cheap recording session at the time, they have a garagey élan, with the muddy, echoed vocals and air of warm fuzz about the whole thing — if the 2007 reissue is mastered from vinyl, it wouldn't be a surprise — and the bandmembers do their best to make their mark. Guitarist Anthony Davis takes most of the lead vocals, and while he's not much more than an enthusiastic journeyman with his embrace of bluesy clichés and "Guitar!" interjections, there's been a lot worse in later years as boogie turned into dull-ass blooze. There are definite moments of flash, though — the skeletal, heavily flanged guitar solo on "Just for Fun," whether by Davis or by fellow guitarist Mike McMahon, makes for an unsettling addition to a straightforward enough chug, for instance. More an artifact than a new addition to a fairly weighty canon, Handful is if nothing else a signpost to a now long-departed era.

Handful, Betty Mung'ora
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