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Coven - Coven CD (album) cover





2.61 | 18 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars After the Chicago based COVEN unleashed the mother of all occult rock records just as the 1960s were ending with its debut album "Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Sous," the band disappeared for a couple years before reinventing itself a more straight forward pop rock band. Most of this was due to an article published in Esquire magazine which was titled "Evil Lurks In California" which wrongly associated the entire counterculture to the Charles Manson murders. Apparently the subject of Satanism that found an entire recorded Satanic black mass tagged onto the end of COVEN's debut was more than the god-fearing public could stomach and the band received a lot of backlash.

Rather than simply disappearing forever, COVEN underwent a new branding of sort and completely distanced themselves from witchcraft imagery. COVEN released its eponymously titled album signifying a new beginning and this followup came out in 1971. In many ways the album symbolized the ultimate selling your soul to Satan thing which is the fate of many who seek fame and fortune which is symbolized by the faceless / soulless representations of the band members on the album cover along with a black cat that displays only one eye open (the all seeing eye). The band pretty much jettisoned all the overt occultism and opted for more subtle references with music that was more of a hangover from the 1960s than anything cutting edge art nouveau for 1971.

COVEN was a talented band in crafting instantly catchy pop songs based on blues rock motifs steeped in 60s hard psych charm. Lead singer Esther "Jinx" Dawson showcases her extraordinary vocal abilities more freely on this sophomore release as she retains her Grace Slick 2.0 style of ballsy West Coast heavy psych complete with blood curdling screams and Janis Joplin inspired bravado. While this formula of West coast bluesy acid rock and gritty diva deliveries appears at first to be the winning formula for COVEN's success, the problem is with this album is that it never really latches onto any particular formula and feels like it is grasping for straws.

The album is most famous for spawning COVEN's only top 40 hit "One Tin Soldier" which musically speaking was the best track they ever recorded. This instantly catchy song recounted a tale of two neighboring tribes that finds the war-mongering Valley People conquering the peaceful Mountain Kingdom. This track was not an original at all but a cover from the Canadian pop group The Original Caste and ironically the track was first released by that group in 1969, the year of COVEN's debut album. The COVEN version of the song was featured on the soundtrack of the film "Billy Jack" which had a plot similar to "One Tin Soldier's" lyrics.

While competent in delivering decent pop-infused heavy psych with a 60s zeitgeist and a stray top 40 hit that these musicians would never repeat, this self-titled sophomore release is fairly uneven in its style and consistency. For example, Jinx Dawson provides the lead female vocals but guitarist Christopher Nelson sings on quite a few of the tracks with Dawson taking on the role of backing vocalist and in the process sounding more like Quicksilver Messenger Service than Jefferson Airplane. The uninspiring Elvis Presley cover of "Jailhouse Rock" is the ultimate filler track on this one. Whereas the rest of the album retains a retro late 60s West Coast psychedelic rock feel, this track from the 1950s flails and as it was placed smack dab in the middle of the album derails the consistency.

In the end this COVEN album is saved by strong songwriting and a more energetic delivery of instrumentation which found more ambitious lead guitars, excellent piano rolls and a more diverse delivery of percussion and the top 40 hit "One Tin Soldier" was a brilliant song and a great choice to cover however that song sounds unlike anything else on this album is a fish out of water thus ending the album on a head-scratching note. The moral of the story is that even selling your soul to Satan is no guarantee for musical talent and financial success. COVEN would return with the Satanic imagery in 1974 with the ill-fated "Blood On The Snow" but the world moved on and COVEN would become utterly irrelevant once its one and only top 40 hit fell off the charts. This album is better than its reputation leads to believe but nothing spectacular either.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |


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