Once again your rockin’ writer felt the need to resurrect his “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we revisit Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Ali Handal’s Dirty Little Secret.
Your crusty chronicler did, indeed personally discover Handal’s Dirty Little Secret . . . in a “used” CD bin at Rhino Records in Claremont, CA. It was both sad and shocking! To think that some Claremont Colleges guy, hoping to filet the fish of some female freshman, was so desperate for date cash that he sacrificed his Handal CD to the indie outlet.
Oh the ignorance of the young! The 2000 12-track release is truly worth more than a potential poke in the whiskers with some fine, fresh freshman. After all, unlike the cute college co-ed, Handal definitely delivers.
Handal’s disc includes all original songs and explores various themes including life, love and lust. Your randy write had a quickie interview with Handal recently who stated that: “The album represents ‘a record’ of where I was at that time in my life -- all those songs are very personal to me (especially "Indy"!). It still makes me smile hearing Indy's voice on that track, so many years later.”
The recording features the tuneful talents of Handal (vocals, guitars, keys and programming) and other assisting artists including: James “Plookie” Werts (bass), Pete Paroda (drums), David Leach (percussion) and Indy (meows, purrs and other assorted noises). The album opens on “Slave to Ambition”. This one barely foreshadows what is to come on the release. It’s about what some people will do to succeed and the sometimes questionable compromises they make along the way.
The second selection is “Convince Me”. It features background vocals by Carina Norlund in a sexy, sultry song that clues listeners in on one of the major themes of the disc: “Some would say ‘no’, send you home before you cross the line/But why should I care ‘bout your girl when it’s me on your mind?”
It’s followed a bit too quickly by a fan favorite and standout track titled “While You're Here”. The next number is “In Your Name”. Clocking in at over 5 minutes long it may be a bit lengthy and yet it is nonetheless quite workable and honestly doesn’t quite sound like an overly long song.
“Distance” is one of her songs that oft’times garner her comparisons to the likes of Ani DiFranco. It’s a piece about distance between two people in some sort of imperfect relationship. It’s followed by “Interlude” which is a brief break sampling a humorous moment in the recording studio. It’s also an apt intro to the tune that follows.
Handal has a sense of humor and it’s made quite obvious in the next number named “Indy”. Indy is a happy, heartfelt, tributary track to the hairy thing she sleeps with every night. (It seems just a bit rude to wake a gal up by sitting on her head though, don’t y’all think? Just listen to the song and you’ll get it, boys and girls.)
“Tie Me Up” also belies a certain aspect of the artist’s personality. Her wit continues to flow through her tracks here as well. (Another reminder, Ali, your randy writer made Eagle Scout in 1976 and STILL remembers his naughty knots although he seems to has misplaced his leather ball-gag!)
The noteworthy ballad “What Are You Waiting For?” and smooth, all-too truthful, telling tune “Arms of a Stranger" are also included here. The titular track, “Dirty Little Secret”, is the album’s end-note. It’s a song that describes a make-believe relationship Handal has with someone in her real life.
Her lyrics are generally insightful and intimate and her music often includes percussive guitar rhythms you can dance to as well. If you've never listened to Ali Handal’s Dirty Little Secret, listen to it. If you've already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.