“We dig through crates so you don’t have to.” ~ LITA
While backpacking through Spain, Matt Sullivan – the owner of LITA Records – was involved in a chance car accident with the owner of Vampi Soul and Munster Records (based in Madrid). The two found a common interest in music while waiting for the police to arrive (the other car was filled to the ceiling with records) and Sullivan started hanging out at the Vampi/Munster headquarters in Madrid, instead of continuing whatever European quest he had planned. Munster was a reissue label and Sullivan immersed himself in the business of releasing records. Upon returning to the states, Sullivan decided to give it a go himself and launched LITA in a Seattle basement. And in 2002, the first LITA release made it official.
Over the years, Sullivan, along with co-owner Josh Wright, have been dedicated to picking out forgotten gems and sharing them with the world. LITA reissues are the obscure-yet-amazing albums that, for whatever reason, never received proper attention. According to Sullivan: “All these records are classic and timeless. These people’s careers, most of them, were failures back in the day, and they didn’t deserve that. If we just simply put them out, only heavy music fans like us would pick them up; that’s great, but the artists’ music deserves so much more than that. None of these artists made music so that some collector in his basement could just hoard it – that wasn’t the point. At least any artist we’re dealing with, they want their music to be heard by kids, and old people, and people of all ages around the world. To us, that’s important. Music should be shared.” [The Daily Swarm/Oct. 11, 2012]
LITA is responsible for reissuing choice records from legendary artists such as; Lee Hazelwood, Marcos Valle, The Last Poets, The Free Design, Serge Gainsbourg, Karen Dalton, Donnie & Joe Emerson, and The Louvin Brothers, amongst many others. Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends, a collection of demos and rarities from Kris Kristofferson, is their 50th release. A few years back they helped re-introduce the world to the psychedelic sounds of Rodriguez (a largely forgotten Detroit-based musician who is the focus of the incredibly popular 2012 documentary “Searching For Sugar Man”). And most recently, they are responsible for a masterful reissue collection surrounding the underground country legend, Lee Hazelwood.
From the beginning, Sullivan sought to create a label that the customer, the music lover, could trust. “I looked at labels like Creation Records or Stax—labels you trusted. Maybe in the ‘80s or early ‘90s you’d read about a new Sub Pop release or a Stax release back in the day, and you’d go buy that record just because it had that credibility.” And it is this attention to style and accountability that is evident with each and every LITA release.
LITA has their own quarterly ‘zine filled with interviews and articles (I got my last edition inside the Kris Kristofferson LP). They also embark on an annual road trip, a pilgrimage of sorts, driving around the country visiting independent record stores. While connecting with musicians and customers, they maintain and foster a dedicated community based on the love of once-forgotten records. If you haven’t already done so, you should check out the video series documenting their 2013 adventure over at Pitchfork. 80 record stores in 14 days – not a bad way to see the country.
As of 2011, LITH have a second imprint, Modern Classic Recordings, through which they have already released seminal albums from Mercury Rev, D’Angelo, and Morphine. LITA takes great care with each release. Most of their gatefold jackets get the tip-on old school treatment provided by Stoughton Printing (same printer responsible for the new Music Matters Blue Note reissues, which are gorgeous creations) and are pressed onto quality heavy vinyl. LITA is now in the distribution business, providing services for many smaller American and international labels (you can search through and order these recordings on LITA’s website).
Want to hear an amazing album you never knew existed? Check out any LP with the Light In The Attic logo and you just might hear your next favorite record.
Five Must-Have LPs From Light In The Attic Records:
A lost classic, this psychedelic recording was Rodriguez’s debut record. Long forgotten after its initial release in 1970, the album and Rodriquez himself, slowly became legendary in South Africa. Myths abound, many thought that Rodriquez had died — drug overdose, burned alive onstage — or been committed to a mental hospital, yet the actual Rodriquez was alive and living in Detroit. The documentary “Searching For Sugar Man” documents the search for Rodriquez and is a brilliant piece of journalism. Cold Fact is an amazing collection of psychedelic folk songs deeply rooted in the counter-culture sound of the ’60’s, with revolutionary lyrics and surrealist poetry abound.
Recorded in 1970 at Bearsville Studio and produced by Harvey Brooks, this record has always been a personal favorite of mine. Karen Dalton was a regular on the Greenwich Village scene in the 1960’s. In his book, “Chronicles: Volume One”, Bob Dylan explains that “Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday and played guitar like Jimmy Reed.” This album is a lovely collection of folk songs. The first track, “Something On Your Mind” is amazing. It’s a dreamy, lamenting piece of work that never deserved to be forgotten.
#3: D’Angelo, Voodoo
Perhaps one of the greatest soul recordings ever put down to tape was released in the year 2000. Voodoo was the long awaited follow-up record to D’Angelo’s debut, Brown Sugar. The album was recorded at Electric Ladyland Studios in NYC and features a stellar roundup of musicians. The songs are dripping with analog goodness. The sound is deep and satisfying, with rich harmonies and layers upon layers of sonic textures. With nods to the greats and soul heavyweights like Sly Stone, Al Green and Jimi Hendrix, this record is all D’Angelo. Released through the Modern Recording Classics imprint, this is the first time this seminal album has been reissued on LP. The original is expensive and hard to find and this reissue gives you the goods all the same (my original has been practically played to death, so this reissue was gladly pre-ordered).
The Louvin Brothers are the real deal. Known for their signature close harmony singing, the sound is hauntingly sacred. Infusing a sense of darkness, these country songs stand the test of time and have influenced many artists including Graham Parsons and The Byrds. This album was originally released by Capitol in 1959, and is perhaps their most lasting album. This reissue was remastered from the original Mono tapes and sports a classic tip-on gatefold jacket. (This record also provides one of the greatest album covers of all time.)
This collection of unreleased material is pressed onto two, 180gram LPs. The project was approved by Kristofferson himself and features an amazing collection of songs revealing the immense talent of this classic songwriter. Sonically, this record is a grab-bag — it really is a collection of demos. But the “demo-quality” is exactly what is so damn charming about these performances. I can’t stop listening to this LP. Even when I’m far away from my turntable, Kristofferson’s hooks keep playing around in my head. Included in this reissue are detailed liner notes consisting of interviews and stories from the people who were around when these recordings were captured (Dennis Hopper, Merle Haggard). The tip-on gatefold jacket is gorgeous and the vinyl is dead quiet. A must-have for any country music fan or basically anyone who truly appreciates a finely crafted song.