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WRITING ON THE WALL

Heavy Prog • United Kingdom


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Writing on the Wall biography
The band that became WRITING ON THE WALL began as Scottish soul band the JURY in the mid-sixties, but transforming themselves like so many of their contemporaries into a psychedelic-tinged group along with their renaming in 1968. The band issued but one official studio album, the 1969 release 'The Power of the Picts'. Like many evolving groups caught in the midst of rapid musical evolution in the late sixties, WRITING ON THE WALL retained much of the blues influence of the music they came of age with by mixing heavy and sometimes uneven blend of psych, blues with idealistic and often abstract lyrics to form a distinctly late sixties sound reminiscent of groups like BLUES IMAGE, CACTUS, and BABE RUTH. Writing's music tended toward a more somber tone than most of their peers, and the band further distinguished themselves by relocating to England to make somewhat of an impression on the British scene of that day. The band recorded for DJ John Peel in late1968, and released their sole album on Brian Waldman's fledging Middle Earth label. Waldman also served as the band's manager, and secured them gigs in his club, also named Middle Earth.

While Writing failed to launch with their studio release, the band's live shows attracted them some attention (mostly in England), and the band managed to hold together until 1973 while touring and recording occasionally, including a second album in 1972 and the beginning of a third before waning interest and the theft of their equipment caused the groups to dissolve in 1973. Neither of the band's other albums was released at the time, although numerous compilations and "reissues" of dubious legitimacy have been made available since. The band's debut was reissued in 2007 on Orc Records with bonus material including much of the previous unreleased studio work. Guitarist Willy Finlayson went on to stints with the bands MEAL TICKET, BEES MAKE HONEY and his own group the HURTERS, as well as an appearance on MANFRED MANN's 'Earthband' release. Singer the late Linnie Paterson joined BEGGAR'S OPERA, Robert 'Smiggy' Smith joined the aptly-named BLUE, Alby Greenhalgh joined the rockabilly outfit the FLYING SAUCERS, and bassist Jake Scott formed the obscure jazz group XU-XU PLESA.

WRITING ON THE WALL merit a place on ProgArchives for their brief but historically relevant impact as a Scottish prog band working to make a name for themselves in the heartland of progressive music (England), at a rich time in progre...
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WRITING ON THE WALL discography


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WRITING ON THE WALL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.72 | 19 ratings
Power of the Picts
1969

WRITING ON THE WALL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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WRITING ON THE WALL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Power of the Picts by WRITING ON THE WALL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.72 | 19 ratings

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Power of the Picts
Writing on the Wall Heavy Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Sole album from this Edinburgh quintet (formerly known as The Jury) relocated in London. Their Hammond-based proto-prog was also proto-hard-rock if you like that sort of pigeonholing: but in either case, WotW was amongst the pioneers of the genre, since thir album was released in 69. Indeed, Bill Scott's dominating organ gives the band a solid sound that can make you think of Atomic Rooster or during their wilder moments of Arthur Brown's Crazy World. The band had a raw sound with Patterson's vocals and anarchy-loving lyrics (the opening track of It Came On Sunday), but Finlayson's sizzling fuzzling guitar gives it the extra oomph to go overboard. Of course, the band's choices of artwork and album title (the Pict tribes not reminding the English many merry souvenirs) were somewhat questionable, and it probably didn't help them break out of the local club circuit, though they did manage to find the Middle Earth club and record label.

The album consists mostly of relatively short songs, though calling their format commercial would very misleading. While some are fairly straightforward (Sunday, Ladybird, etc..), others are more elaborate (Mrs Cooper's Pie, Shadow Of Man, Hills Of Dreams) with some of their proggier moments bearing shades of Deep Purple (mkI). Of course, the main selling point of this album to progheads will be the lengthy (8-mins) Aries piece, which goes east, north, west, south and centre, but remaining focused ll the way through. Other excellent stand-outs are the slightly longer Shadow of Man and Viginia Waters. The album's only real flaw of the album is the (thankfully short) dumb folk ditty Bogeyman piece, which should've never seen the album, or even the light of day (for its own sake). An accordion piece, but you'll also find that yucky instrument on Hill Of Dreams.

The Repertoire label CD reissue features the non-album single tracks of the same year and both of them are well in line with the album's overall sound. The band would apparently record a US-release live album (not sure it was legit either) and a further single in 73, before falling apart; with their ex-members migrating to other projects, but never making it "big". While you may have trouble with the album's production standard, the open-minded proghead won't have problems adapting and enjoying, because it is definitely a very interesting brand of proto-hard-prog, and the album will gracefully and rightfully sit in your shelves not too far away from the bands mentioned above.

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 Power of the Picts by WRITING ON THE WALL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.72 | 19 ratings

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Power of the Picts
Writing on the Wall Heavy Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars POWER OF THE PICTS is the one-and-only studio album from the little-known WRITING ON THE WALL, an intense, organ-dominated prog/psych-rock group hailing from Scotland and active for a brief-but- brilliant while circa 1969. The line-up consisted of Linnie Patterson(vocals), Willy Finlayson(guitar), Jake Scott(bass), Billy T. Scott (keys), Jimmy Hush(drums) and Alby Greenhalg(wind instr). The group found their first strains of fame, when, after the usual bout of incessant gigging, WOTW travelled down to London and managed to secure themselves a residency at the famed Marquee Club, subsequently wowing the packed arena with a series of wildly exciting live shows. The reward for their exceptional live peformances was a record-deal with the newly formed Orc Records, and soon the six- piece had the difficult task of translating their live brilliance onto tape. POTP was the result and, remarkably, the bands heady brew of blues-drenched, wigged-out guitar-and- organ groove-psych-rock is captured with all it's blazing, barnstorming beauty in-tact. Soundwise they resemble the likes of Hawkwind, May Blitz, Cream and Steppenwolf, but with a uniquely fuzzed-out sound all of their own, with the album boasting 11 ballsy, tripped-out rockers with Billy T. Scott's Organ and Linne Patterson's vocals the dominant forces. Opening track 'It Came On A Sunday' immediately sets out their sonic stall; bluesy guitar-tones, fuzzed- out organ and deep, throaty vocals divided between fast-burning rock numbers and mellower, organ-led pieces that sound like they were thought-up during the wee, small hours of the night. By the time album-closer 'Lucifer's Corpse' is beginning to fade, the listener would have been on a seriously-psychedelic journey through late-sixties, spliffed-up rock accompanied bymanic-yet-expert instrumental verve and whacked-out lyrical looniness. Sadly though, this would be WOTW's moment in the sun, with poor album-sales and, eventually, the theft of almost all their equipment, contributing to their eventual dis-banding. They left behind one excellent album, and one wonders what more they were capable of if given the chance. The late sixties and early-seventies are filled with talented psych/prog groups that failed to make it big despite some innovative LP's, and WOTW unfortunately fill that unlucky clutch of groups. However, in recent years, this wild Scots six-pieces debut album has found a following and is finally been given the attention and ciritical accalim it deserves with renewed interest leading to a new fans website and two new CD reissues of this album hitting the shops. This reviewer loved POTP; It may be obscure, but it's a great example of hard-edged sixties acid-rock and a genuine, bondafide, sparkling hidden gem.

***The current Orc Records reissue comes with a bonus album entitled 'Buffalo' that was apparently left unfinished. Incredibly, it's musically as good as POTP. The sound-quality, however, is not the best. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2009

a venue seen as the six-piece soon startedfound their niche with a series of rip-roaring shows, briefly gaining them a reputation as a top underground live act. The band's heady brew of wigged-out guitar- and-organ psych-rock drenched in heavy blues suited the live-scene of the era and their fame and reputation inthsi medium secured them a residency at the Marquee Club in London.

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 Power of the Picts by WRITING ON THE WALL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.72 | 19 ratings

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Power of the Picts
Writing on the Wall Heavy Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars This album is more of a curio than anything else, a decent sample representative of any number of blues-influenced bands that worked their way through psych and into mildly progressive territory while searching for a defining sound in the late sixties.

Writing on the Wall formed out of a Scottish soul cum psych band named Jury before relocating to England and releasing this, their only official studio release in 1969. Apparently the band toiled on until finally breaking up in the wake of their equipment being stolen in 1973. Besides this CD reissue there is an LP re-release and a couple of other compilations of this disc and some other material they recorded along the way but never released while the band was still together.

The pervading sound is a bluesy one with plenty of aggressive and energetic organ, heavy guitar and unexceptional vocals. The lyrical themes range from earthy to vague fantasy to weirdly poetic. A few spoken-word passages (especially on the Arthur Brown-like “Aries”) add some variety but don’t do much to really distinguish the music.

The second half of the disc is noticeably more progressive than the first. On “Shadow of Man” the band lays down a turgid rhythm and dances around it with psych guitars and lyrics, the ever-present organ, and more crazy vocals. “Taskers Sucessor” seems to lift the Doors’ sound quite liberally, while the organ sound and vocal timbre on “Hill of Dreams” reminds me a whole lot of the old Bee Gees tune “(You Don't Know What its Like) to Love Somebody”. “Virginia Water” also seems inspired by what was on the band’s turntable at the time, in this case Procol Harum.

The final two tracks on the CD reissue are “Child on a Crossing” and “Lucifer Corpus”, the two sides of the band’s first single released before this album was originally recorded. Both are more psych-leaning than most of the rest of the album and may represent the transitional state of the band as it moved from that to a more progressive sound as they worked on the tracks for this album.

Like I said, this isn’t ground-breaking stuff, but it is mildly interesting from a historical perspective. The reissues are plentiful and easy to find, so if you come across this and are into heavy prog music you might find it worthwhile. As it is I’ll give this three stars but only a lukewarm recommendation.

peace

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