Liz Phair

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Before signing to Matador Records, Liz Phair recorded a wealth of home demos that were only circulated, primarily to acquaintances, on cassette. In fact, it was a tape of this material that brought Phair to the attention of Matador in the first place. Featuring just Liz and her low-volume electric guitar, with layers of overdubs enabling Liz to harmonize with herself, this collection of over 20 lo-fi, intensely personal songs circulated among literally thousands of Phair fans, making this one of the most popular and sought-after alternative rock bootlegs of all time. A few of the tracks found their way onto her first couple of albums in drastically reworked versions, including "Stratford-on-Guy," "Flower," "Johnny Sunshine," "Whip-Smart," "Never Said," "Shane," and "Chopsticks." These stripped-down versions aren't necessarily better (although "Whip-Smart" sounds much less tongue-in-cheek and more effective in its original incarnation), but they are fascinating to hear in such bare-bones arrangements. The substantial majority of these have not been released by Phair, and while some are clearly tentative drafts or awkward, half-baked efforts, others are as tuneful and provoking as anything on her official albums. Phair is arguably a more powerful performer when stripped to her essentials of voice and guitar, and this tape is as vital to her legacy as her Matador discs.