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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 38, Number 10. 22nd May 1975

Maggie Bell : Suicide SAL Polydor 2383 313

Maggie Bell : Suicide SAL Polydor 2383 313

Suicide Sal is far and away the most ambitious, most musically satisfying album yet to issue from one of the most formidable, yet still commercially underappreciated, female hard rock singers. Though none of the album's ten cuts have quite the melodic force of 'I Saw America' (Maggie Bell at her most congenital), or 'Queen of the Night' (at her most soulful). Suicide Sal contains her finest vocal work to date. She's backed forcefully by a spare, trimmed-down outfit — an element that helps lend the album a seriousness of intent, an emotional force that exceeds that of previous work.

Two songs — the only indigenous group compositions, 'Suicide Sal' and 'If You Don't Know' — both work well within the whole, 'Suicide Sal' is a melodic invocation of a former relationship, with its sensuous lyric imagery that specifically recalls the atmosphere of an enchanted affair and provides the case on which the album's centrepiece, 'If You Don't Know' resides. It is a gorgeous, often violent commentary on the insanity that accompanies romantic passion, its aura of suicidal desperation, its blindness that permits a greater truth wherein the identity of the partners, the 'You' and 'I' are almost inseperable and hence mutually destructive. Though it is a song of few words, the words resonate, and Jimmy Page's extended guitar break between verses embodies some of the most eloquent musical commentary that I can recall. Bell's vocal is piercingly rendered, the instrumentation that joins her, [unclear: spare] and anguished.

Her version of Free's 'Wishing Well', the opener, is an engaging song that is strongly melodic and tightly constructed, with fine instrumental work by all hands. 'In My Life', a heavier rocker, skilfully inveighs against institutionalised fantasies while expressing a strongly positive message.

Finally, there is the masterful 'It's Been So Long' — a simple, delightful invitation to rock. The cut surges with exciting instrumentation, topped by Bell's unfaltering lead vocal and supported by an irresistible backbeat. Fine rock and roll on a stunning album.