This week's Monday Magick entry is a rare contribution from the West Indies, a location not necessarily known for embracing the supernatural in its popular music. The tune in question is an energetic 1975 side with the incendiary title "King From Hell" which comes courtesy of Trinidadian calypsonian The Mighty Shadow.
If you listen to our Clandestine Transmission podcast you might have heard Emeyesi and I discussing how few Reggae tunes I've featured as part of Monday Magick. While there is an underground tradition of ritual magick in Jamaica known as Obeah, nobody is writing any Reggae songs about it to my knowledge. Traditionally Jamaicans generally just aren't comfortable with the occult and Jamaican musicians are only likely to mention The Devil, witches, "duppies", or vampires unless they're chanting them down alongside "Babylon" and "bald-heads" while alternately praising Jah, Haile Selassie, Marcus Garvey, or some permutation thereof. Elsewhere in the Caribbean folks are more likely to acknowledge the rich tradition of paganism, magick, secret societies, and the occult that exists in the region. And I found at least one artist--Calypso monarch Winston Anthony Bailey a.k.a. The Mighty Shadow--from the area--Trinidad and Tobago to be exact--who has recorded a few songs that "big up" the paranormal in some fashion. His "King From Hell" is bold in its embrace of the supernatural in general and the diabolic specifically. Over a jumping party-time rhythm, Shadow proclaims his own badassery, describing how he plans to kick ass and take names in the afterlife as a "terrible ghost" after his own passing wreaking vengeance upon people who've wronged him as a crowned ruler at the right hand of Satan in Hell. Being a party jam, as most Soca and Calypso is, the song is delivered largely in a tongue-in-cheek style, and it even includes an admonishment against wrongdoing. But the lyricism is otherwise quite strong and a bit shocking in its embrace of unusually dark subject matter for such a usually sun-soaked genre of music.
Over the years The Mighty Shadow has won respect, accolades, and awards in the world of Calypso, including being named an International Soca Monarch. He's still active as a recording artist and performing today.
I fully intended to make today's featured song the first post after our month-long celebration of Donovan's "Season of the Witch" last week, but sadly I just wasn't feeling up to it. Thankfully another week presents me with another Monday and I'm feeling in the mood to share some Monday Magick in the form of "Curse of the Witch" from Los Angeles Psych-Pop outfit the Strawberry Alarm Clock's 1968 sophomore LP 'Wake Up...It's Tomorrow'.
I've featured a lot of weird songs here on Monday Magick, but "Curse of the Witch" is undoubtedly one of the weirdest to date. The song tells the very straightforward story of a man whose family is cursed by witches during the Puritan era only to have his own daughter accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake and his wife wish for death in her grief. This would normally be weird enough. But it's all delivered in an almost madrigal-like manner via the sort of multi-layered vocal harmonies one might expect from the likes of the Beach Boys or The Association over a track that alternates between fuzzy Acid-Rock grooves, bubbly Jazz-inspired runs, and freaky film score-style orchestration. It's lounge-y but baroque, like The Classics IV mashed up with The Electric Prunes. Like I said, it's weird. Beautiful, and strangely "poppy", but weird.
After 'Wake Up...' the Alarm Clock went through several lineup changes and released a few more albums through the end of the '60s. Steve Bartek, the group's flutist, went on to join Danny Elfman's band Oingo Boingo and assisted in his orchestral work for films. An incarnation of the band released a new album, 'Wake up Where You Are', in 2012.
With the fourth and final Friday of October upon us we finally present the last entry in our month-long tribute to the Donovan composition "Season of the Witch". This week's entry, which comes courtesy of South African Metal pioneers Suck and their 1970 debut 'Time to Suck', may in fact be the heaviest, not to mention trippiest, incarnation of the occult classic that we've featured.
Like many of the assorted covers of "Season of the Witch" that we've covered over the last two years Suck's version is on the long side, with a running time of nearly ten minutes. But it gives us a lot during those ten minutes; from otherworldly flutes over a stoner-rock intro, to a chugging locomotive of a groove that puts the "heavy" in their metal, to wild, freaked out riffing, to an "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"-style drum breakdown, to shouting and Bluesey wailing, and even some new ad-libs that reference voodoo spells for good measure! Far from "sucking", Suck's cover may actually be one of the best versions of "Season of the Witch" from amongst a field of truly outstanding reworks by some of the most talented musicians in the world. It's certainly earned a place high up on my list of favorite "Season of the Witch" covers, that's for sure.
'Time to Suck' was the quartet's only album, and was only officially released in the United States in 2009. The various members of the band, a group comprised of two South Africans, a Brit, and an Italian, are, if not lost to time, sadly lost to me.
The penultimate entry in Monday Magick's October-long tribute to Donovan's "Season of the Witch" is here! This week we bring you a version of the classic tune cut by British Psychedelic outfit Sam Gopal for their 1969 LP 'Escalator'.
If you've never heard of Sam Gopal you can be forgiven, as the freaky four-piece named for it's Malaysian-born tabla-playing founder wasn't exactly a household name. That said, the band did feature Ian Williams, perhaps better known as Lemmy Kilmister of Hawkwind and Motörhead fame, on vocal and lead guitar. In fact, it's Lemmy who provides the surprisingly soul-inflected vocals on their cover of "Season of the Witch". Their version is remarkable for it's stripped down sound, comprised of fuzz-bass, jangling guitar, the aforementioned tablas, and Gospel-inspired female background vocals. It's even more remarkable for the stone groove the band falls into whenever the drums drop in. The vocal from Lemmy, unorthodox arrangement, and outstanding bass work from Phil Duke, really do help set this version of the tune apart.
'Escalator' was the only record released by this line-up of Sam Gopal, but a version of the band featuring different personnel released an album, 'Father Mucker', in 1999. As mentioned above, Lemmy went on to play bass in Hawkwind, found Motörhead, collect Nazi memorabilia, and drink a lot of alcohol.
Think what you want about Odd Future figurehead Tyler, The Creator and his oftentimes controversial subject matter, but if you can't recognize how talented this kid is as a musician and actor you're buggin'.
His new video, for the rough-n-rugged "Buffalo" and the smooth-as-fuck "Find Your Wings" (which features Kali Uchis, Syd tha Kyd and her band The Internet, and Soul-Jazz legend Roy Ayers), shows just how versatile of a talent, not to mention how daring and funny, he really is.
"Buffalo" and "Find Your Wings" are both from Tyler's outstanding third LP 'Cherry Bomb' which you should already own by now but is still available on Odd Future Records if you don't.
Another Monday in October means another entry in Monday Magick's month-long tribute to the Donovan composition "Season of the Witch". This week's cover comes from 'Bang, Bang You're Terry Reid', the 1968 debut LP from British Rock vocalist and guitarist Terry Reid.
Reid's cover, featuring Keith Webb on drums and Eric Leese on organ, clocks in at over ten minutes and boasts a monster bassline courtesy of an unknown bassist who sadly goes uncredited in the liner noted. The majority of the tune is in a mellow, bluesy mode, with lots of lackadaisical vamping from the trio of musicians involved, recorded with a pretty hefty reverb. But there are sections where the guitar and drumming get heavier, the organ howls, and Reid's vocal enters a screamy register that really showcases why Jimmy Page offered him the vocalist job in the band that would become Led Zeppelin prior to linking up with Robert Plant.
After releasing 'Bang, Bang...' Reid turned down the invitation from Page, and later turned down the chance to front Deep Purple. He released a string of albums which culminated with a live record, 'Live in London', in 2013. The now 65 year old Reid still tours.
I am learning more about everything, including how to learn more.
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