The Feminine Complex
Media Condition: M
Sleeve Condition: M
Genre: Rock, Garage, Psychedelic
Notes: 2x LP. Pink colored vinyl, gatefold cover. RSD pressing of 1,400. Incredible reissue from Modern Harmonic–sonically rich, this pressing does the whole album justice. Unopened, unplayed.
If you like: the soulful vocals of Dusty Springfield paired with the sound of fellow female garage rockers, The Daisy Chain or the psych-tinged garage of Ace of Cups, Tommy James & The Shondells, and Faine Jade–this one’s just right for you.
About: An obscure all-girl ‘60s garage band from Nashville, Tennessee, The Feminine Complex comprised singer/guitarist Mindy Dalton, bassist Jean Williams, vocalist/tambourine player Judi Griffith, organist Pame Stephens, and drummer Lana Napier. The group was formed by Williams and Napier in 1966 while both were sophomores at Nashvillee’s Maplewood High School. Originally named The Pivots, a moniker suggested by the girls’ basketball coach, they made their debut at a school talent show–after recruiting teammates Dalton and Griffith–dressed in matching pantsuits and performing covers of contemporary hits. After adding Stephens, the quintet rechristened themselves The Feminine Complex and began making regular appearances at Skateland, then Nashville’s hottest summer teen hangout.
In a local scene otherwise dominated by male combos like the Anglo Saxons, The Feminine Complex quickly earned a cult following, and soon they were touring throughout Tennessee. They caught the attention of A&R vet Dee Kilpatrick, who’d just formed the Athena Records label. The Feminine Complex was the label’s first signing, and in 1969, the band’s debut LP Livin’ Love was released. However, by the time the album appeared the group had already disintegrated–Stephens, who’d graduated high school, ultimately chose college over rock & roll, and both Williams and Napier quit soon after. Dalton and Griffith briefly forged on as a duo, but by late 1969, the Feminine Complex was no more. In 1996, the hip indie label TeenBeat reissued Livin’ Love, followed a year later by the rarities collection To Be in Love. *via Jason Ankeny
Why it’s worth your time: Livin’ Love is an instance in which a young and unknown group–one comprising of five female high school students, at that–creates a debut surpassing their finest and most seasoned contemporaries and heroes’ works in greatness, only to live in relative obscurity prior to being ressurected by a reissue label. Perhaps this kind of story is more common than not today, conceivably discounting the value of what’s out there, but that can’t be the case here; Livin’ Love is a magnum opus of ‘60s American garage rock–a pioneering effort that changed the landscape hereafter.
But if it’s grit you’re after, you won’t find that here–imaginably, this being the only miscue of the effort. Kilpatrick’s push to warp the girl’s sound into something more commercially attractive resulted in the use of session musicians and shiny post-production, the effect of which lingers beneath the structure of every song. Accounts from the group’s live shows indicate the more psychedelic-inflected and feedback-laced numbers like “Hide and Seek,” “It’s Magic,” and “Time Slips By” were actually aligned with their true sound. Still, it doesn’t take much effort to recognize the talents of The Feminine Complex; the very fact that every single song was penned by Dalton (and a few by Williams) and all were performed expertly by the girls within just a year or two of learning their instruments would be an impressive feat in and of itself. What’s more, Dalton’s full range, sultry vocals, Williams and Napier’s tight rythym section, Stephens’ glimmering keys, and those absolutely impeccable, esoteric floating vocal harmonies could easily cut through any and all studio bullshit–the only proof you’ll need that this album is something else. And on that note, perhaps it’s best that Kilpatrick’s influence is present here, otherwise we might not have known just how dynamic and spectacular The Feminine Complex was.
A favorite track: The Warmth of Your Smile