This Detroit quartet released one album in 1968 on Lee Hazlewood’s label and then vanished. Original copies of their lone record go for about $2,000, but thankfully, Light In The Attic reissued it with bonus tracks in 2013. Consisting of Laura Polkinghorne, Marsha Jo Temmer, and sisters Joan and Alexandra Sliwin, Honey Ltd. were originally called Mama Cats (pun noted) and drew on their hometown’s inspirational culture of soul music. They also found themselves playing shows with Bob Seger ca. 1967. After riots roiled Detroit that year, the band moved to LA in 1968 to try to further their music career. One audition later with Hazlewood and the legendary music man signed them to his LHI imprint.
Produced by Mr. Hazlewood, Honey Ltd.’s songs deftly balance social and political commentary with matters of the heart. The group’s savvy songwriting skills and magical, four-part vocal harmonies received considerable boost from Lee’s access to several world-class studio musicians from the Wrecking Crew, including Carol Kaye, Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche, Plas Johnson, Chuck Berghofer, Al Casey, Jim Gordon, and Don Randi.
The album begins with “Warrior,” which is about a lover going off to war, and it sarcastically treats his violent destiny as a good thing, as it shifts from poignant ballad to rousing rocker with verve. I dare any listener not to get swept away by the surging chorus. “No, You Are” and “I’ve Got Your Man” are harmony-rich girl-group brilliance—soaring pop that hits like a more robust Free Design. The latter tune boasts about undermining a woman’s relationship with dulcet brashness. “Eli’s Coming” is a faithful, exciting cover of Laura Nyro‘s brash soul showstopper, which only was released shortly before Honey Ltd.’s own version. The sophisticated pop-soul gem “Silk ‘N Honey” reveals further Nyro infatuation. The sublimely haunting pop of “Tomorrow Your Heart” foreshadows UK goth-pop sensations Strawberry Switchblade, except when it bursts into Motown-ish, soul-belting mode.
Honey Ltd certainly had a winning, eccentric way with covers. Their unconventionally arranged brassy interpretation of the oft-covered garage-rock standard “Louie, Louie” gets laced with fascinating vocal extrapolations. And their euphoric rendition of the Skip James blues classic “I’m So Glad” radically differs from Cream’s more famous version. Psych-pop heads will flip over the exceptionally dynamic “For Your Mind” and “Come Down,” with the latter being a hippie-rock anthem that would segue well into the United States Of America’s “Coming Down.” It features the group’s strongest vocal performance, replete with haunting undertones and undulating harmonies.
Following her short-lived stint with Honey Ltd., Polkinghorne went on to sing backing vocals with Seger, Black Crowes, and… uh, Kid Rock. But if there were any justice, she and songwriting partner Temmer would be much better known for their work in this femme-powered Motor City outfit. -Buckley Mayfield
Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.