Released: 2006, Rusty Cage Records
Jewel began life in 1982 as a more hard rock-oriented group, then known as Sword. The band quickly moved away from their hard rock-styled Beethoven covers (!) and into a more heavy metal sound. Eventually the band changed their name to Jewel (1986) and hit the tour trail hard, culminating with the release of the 4-song LA MORTA in 1988. The band carried on touring for another few years, before finally calling quits in the early ‘90s.
OK, now that the history lesson is out of the way, let’s get to the music. The first four tracks on this disc are from the official LA MORTA release. These songs highlight the fact that Jewel was a very workman-like metal band – competent, but not overly flashy or memorable. Vocalist Rick Ambrose is a typical yelper, and the music is the standard issue fast, but not quite thrash, that was so common at the time. While “Blacque Moon” and “Kings of Tomorrow” are entertaining stompers, the ballad “Mystery of Fate” is just dull. Also from this era of the band we get the live cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” which is turned into a thrashy exercise in speed. It’s interesting, but not particularly necessary.
For the other bonus tracks, we go into the band’s history prior to LA MORTA, with basically only guitarist Henky Backer remaining from the later lineup. “Don’t Let Them Take Control” is a demo version of “La Morta” – almost identical musically, but with different lyrics and vocals. For a demo, it’s very well done and is almost as good as the official versions. The booklet states that “Lost in a Memory” is a demo version of “Blacque Moon” but even if it was heavily re-arranged, I don’t hear any similarity at all. It’s a completely different song – a crappy one. As later this song, “Mirage” and “I Dream On” illustrate, at this point Jewel seemed to be going for a more commercial, pop-metal type sound – not good. “I Dream On” is especially bad, being completely dull and with terrible vocals and dragging on for almost eight minutes!
The album closes with two songs from 1983 which show the band in a much more heavy metal head space (but still with glam-rock tendencies), but again, unremarkable.
Overall, LA MORTA is a historical curiosity and not much more. Judging by the songs offered here, it’s obvious that Jewel could not decide what type of band they wanted to be, and that probably contributed to their demise. Still, there are some good songs offered here – enough to make it a worthwhile release for old fans or hardcore collectors.