Letters to Cleo

Avalon Ballroom

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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson

Because Letters to Cleo never came out with an official live album, bootlegs are the only place where one can hear recordings of its live performances. The band wasn't bootlegged as exhaustively as some of the really huge alternative rockers of the 1990s -- for every Cleo bootleg that surfaced during that decade, there were a lot more by (just to give a few examples) Tori Amos, Pearl Jam, Hole, Oasis, or Alanis Morissette. This one, which surfaced around 1995, focuses on a December 1, 1994 show at Boston's Avalon Ballroom. The sound quality is excellent, and they deliver a 77-minute set that is fun and inspired, if slightly uneven. Material from the Bostonians' first album, Aurora Gory Alice is a high priority; in fact, they perform most of that CD (including the hit "Here and Now"). However, the 1994 audience gets a preview of 1995's Wholesale Meats and Fish when lead singer Kay Hanley belts out such power pop items as "Do What You Want, Yeah," "Little Rosa," and "Pizza Cutter." Collectors will be glad to know that this CD also offers a rare cover of the Pixies' "Gouge Away," which never appeared on any of Cleo's studio albums. The performances are aggressive but highly melodic -- at its best, Letters to Cleo was the essence of alternative power pop. And while Avalon Ballroom isn't perfect, this bootleg paints an attractive picture of the band more often than not.

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