Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

White Witch - White Witch

White Witch

Released 1972 on Capricorn Records
Reviewed by aether, 25/09/2012ce

White Witch – White Witch (1972)

“Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so the mind reflects the light of the heart. There’s a being within the depth of the soul, latent, sleeping…Arise...Arise!” Parabrahm Greeting by White Witch

Ever wondered what Abbey Road-era Beatles would’ve sounded like playing The Move’s “Brontosaurus”, sped up to 45rpm? Or, what the Sensational Alex Harvey Band would’ve been like had they been Floridian glam-rockers on America’s best-known Southern Rock label? Or how Santana’s first Hammond-loving organist would’ve sounded like had he been kidnapped by a band of glam-rocking occultists who forced him to use an analogue synthesiser, only for him to eventually empathise with his captors in a Patty Hearst-like manner? Or how America’s ‘occult’ ‘rockers’ ‘Coven’ would’ve sounded like had they had talent and integrity and been on Capricorn instead of Buddha?

No? Well never mind, because White Witch did in the early 70s, spreading the resultant endeavour like thick glam-jam over 2 LPs on Capricorn records. Ah, Capricorn Records! Amongst the many Allman Brothers records there lurked occasional beauties – indeed, even amongst their own corpus: (“Eat a Peach” and its immense epic of mercurial chromium guitars and muscular fluid bass, “Mountain Jam”). Bands such as Captain Beyond and this little known occult offering from hard-glam-progressive act, White Witch made for rock solid debuts.

Apparently, one of White Witch’s main objectives was to counter a lot of the ‘negative’ energy brought into rock by Black Sabbath. I’m sceptical. To hear the first track you’d think the opposite was true. In any case, these seers were surely Sabbath fans to a man – but right alongside Altamont-era Stones, SAHB, Peter Banks’ Flash, The Who, and countless other rockers still flying freak flags high in 1972 – oh yeah…and possibly Manfred Mann’s Earth Band! There’s mucho moog my friends.

Whatever the Sabbath connections, White Witch obviously chose the depths of hell to begin their crusade! “Parabrahm Greeting” begins as a hugely gluttonous moog demon is summoned via arcane filters out of the fires as the guitarist’s Kenneth Anger-era Jimmy P guitar laps all around it, sinuous flickering flames of alchemical Gibson Les Paul. Monolithic Ur-vocalist, Ronn Goedert (who in the space of this one LP will adopt the styles of Mick Jagger, Alex Harvey, Paul McCartney by way of Buck Dharma, Ian Gillan, Arthur Brown, and even Axl Rose whilst never falling hostage to any of them) spews forth some mystical poetry, as the whole crazy scenario erupts into a first-track-of-a-Moody-Blues-psychotic-studio-enhanced-episode, ushered into infinity as the track leads into the fabulously-named “Dwellers on the Threshold.”

Stern guitars and a chromatic two chord see-sawing piano erupt amidst swirling mists of organ and Promethean guitar, rising and rising until it eventually spills over into thee most huge glam swagger riff, yet more ominous guitar, rolling drums and again the gallop or organ and guitar return. “Help me Lord” follows a as the vocalist stretches his Gillan larynx over Hair – The Musical backing singers chanting said title to a funky syncopated riff and resonant moog filters through the melody like grease on a Harley.

“Don’t Close Your Mind” is a psych-progressive rocker of epic proportions: A sort of industrial strength Mott-the-Hoople on steroids jaunt that could easily have come off the 1st Flash LP. Huge rolling chord structures and sleazy glam descends turn up a rolling bass riff and vamped piano – sounds like an American Canterbury band – music perfectly formed for driving around corner bends in the road. An organ solo follows over clipped bass and still the harmonised vocals return: Don’t Close Your Mind!

“Your The One” is a bright breezy late psychedelic Abbey Road-era McCartney type track replete with three part harmonies straight from “Because” and brief, ringing Hackett-Rutherford 12 strings. Trespass with balls! The versatility of the vocalist really comes to the fore here. Has such a pleasing grain to his vocals. Rolling glass Rhodes feeds out on a bed of barely there vocals into “Sleepwalk” – this chord structure reminds me of another song that I just can’t pin down. Parachute-era Pretty Things, comes to mind. Mid-song is dissolves into one of those great jazzy acoustic struts over which a glassy keyboard solo, then a jazzy guitar, then organ, then a distorted guitar all tale turns to solo before again changing pace as congas and more keyboard fight it out for whose going to have last say. A ghostly reprise of the track is the last thing that’s heard. The whole LP is awash to its core with early seventies-ness – Bowie, Purple, Pretty Things, Flash, Mott, Captain Beyond, Dust, Sabbath.

A walloping drum beat opens Side Two with “Home grown Girl” a classic bar room boogie with lyrics such as “Your awful young to be a whore!” I think we can pretty much leave that there!

“And I’m Leaving” is another heavy ballad, with SF Sorrow-era backing vocal sighs and swoons. Bluesy piano liven the track up for the chorus, until a very polished sounding Moog solo swoops all over the track.

“Illusion” is a Fireball-style Purple romp through foxy-sounding wacka-wacka guitar and staccato riffage, as keyboardist (Jon) Lords it over the track in style. What startles is just how Axl the vocal sounds – more thundering rhythm section, here beefed up by a gloriously gluttinous moog that snakes along with the bass, before spaced out keyboard is splashed all over the track Pollock style – the singer grumbling all the while like a disconcerted space-tramp. These cats ain’t nearly finished as the track breaks down into low, low left hand distorto-organ and creepy right hand flourishes, speeding up like a bastard in thee most Arthur Brown/Kingdom come style. A blasting guitar solo, a halt, and the riff is fired off again, as if from a gun.

“It’s So Nice to be Stoned” sort of speaks for itself. Amidst rambling moog lead and rag-time Rainy Day Woman/Don’t Bogart that Joint/Something Happened to me Yesterday accompaniment. Sample Lyric: “Guns and tanks and riot gas can’t stop you from smoking grass.”

More space-rock echoed guitar introduces “Have You Ever Thought of Changing/Jackson Slade is another brash, chest beating riff, off set by a touching, vulnerable chorus. Until another very Beatles-like melody ushers in another great poised Ronson-to-the Max guitar squirm.

A massive scream ushers in thee most doom laden Sabbath-ian riff, like a vortex of gushing wind blowing around bushels of analogue synthesiser melody. “The Gift” is a semi-spoken prayer to the gods of rock. Unabashed, heathen, visceral, primal! This is the sound of White Witch.

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