Sorry for the long wait in publishing a post again!. I've been having a lot of serious issues that I won't bore you with here, but there's been a lot of good ideas and a lot of great music. The summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the street! Well, I don't feel like dancin', but I just might this time around if I can get past the nightmares that attack me during waking hours...
New favourites and old favourites can oftentimes be the same thing and then there's things that are a huge let down and that I was wrong about a million years ago. Perfect cases in point are my huge shock in a bad way at hearing Vinnie Vincent Invasion's All Systems Go again for the first time in 26 years and the huge revelation of hearing and becoming a huge fan of Jinx Dawson and her groundbreaking music with Coven. A new album is supposed to be out there, but no one seems to have it... What A shame, but it was always hard for this magical woman and her magical friends.
While All Systems Go doesn't ever go anywhere except down the loo (what an awful album- just unforgivably bad! then, I ain't a big Kiss fan, but I am a big Slaughter/Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum fan and this is not how I want to hear them!) Coven which I hated and destroyed 21 years ago when I was 17 have over time really developed into a band that are more than a band and dare I say more than even what the word "Magic" can conjure up!
Jinx Dawson and most of Coven originally came from Indiana and then settled in Chicago. Jinx is still beautiful and was always the best looking and singing and writing all at once (!) female singer so what held her back? Why didn't things work out except for one horrible hit which was really just her solo with an orchestra ("One Tin Soldier" from the movie about a massacre on a reservation Billy Jack)? Well, there's a lot going on here and Jinx was always a revolution in one person. Coven, like no other band before them, were the first group to stage a kind of occult rock theater and since Jinx was born into a family of magical heritage and illustrious background she and her buddies in Coven follow The Left Hand Path. Often mislabeled as "Satanists" I'm afraid I'm gonna have to tell all you narrow minded people she is not Satanic nor is the band and The Left Hand Path is a lot more complicated than that.
Coven may have been in a darker realm, but no other band summed up the death of a beautiful dream and the beginning of a huge period of some kind of soul searching. Back in 1967 Arthur Lee And Love had made the amazing and not always cheerful masterpiece FOREVER CHANGES which prophetically hinted at the cracks in the dream of the 60s and peace, flowers, and love. By the time Coven formed in 1968 some horrible things were happening to people all over the world and Jinx as a then 17 year old herself and her somewhat older band-mates Christopher Nielsen (Vocals, guitar), Mike "Oz Osbourne (bass and way, way before Ozzy!), and a drummer who was there from the beginning I'm hazy about the name of now (very sorry! If you read this correct me!), and then later on John Hobbs on keyboards were more a different kind of 60s people than your average Satanic thug. Black Sabbath, it's time for you to admit that Coven existed long before you and beat you to the whole occult thing you never were a part of really till the great Tony Martin too who you sacked without even telling him he was fired ! I love Sabbath, one of my favourite bands, but they went way too far in ripping Coven off and getting people to be selfish drug addicts. Jinx is angry at Sabbath still and with good reason Coven savaged their dressing room by spray painting inverted crosses in blood the one time they were on the same bill. If that wasn't paying them back I don't know what is!
Coven were a band who would go through some different things, some chameleon-like changes almost in their musical approach, but always were a heavy psychedelic band with their roots in folk, heavy metal pioneering, and West Coast psychedelic rock that sends Jefferson Airplane straight into oblivion and beats them at everything they ever tried to do! Also, they were early purveyors of progressive rock and rock theater and Jinx was only 18 just a year older than the already amazing beginning of the band at 17 when their masterful Witchcraft was released.
This album says it all. I am looking for an original copy, am steering you away from the sickening Akarma bootleg which I WILL NOT PURCHASE (!), and am avidly playing the album to death on YouTube since it inspired a whole opera from me last year! Witchcraft sums it all up. The dream of peace, flowers, and tranquility was dashed to a sad and mournful grave starting in a rather creepy way at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968 and ending with what would have the album pulled by their know-nothing label Mercury- the disgusting, horrific, and sicker than sick Manson Family Murders. Had people tried all that time for it to just blow up like this!? Had nothing been accomplished!? Had the dream of peace been in vain!? I'm sorry, but in disgusting America it was demolished, yes, but adjustments would be made and psychedelic rock, progressive rock, all the great music would survive worldwide just in a very different way. In America the 70s would continue to produce a lot of great music, but a clear path to take disappeared and led to something pretty tasty in the end. Also, it must be stressed that people would continue to be free spirited just more with their guard up. It was a time when things were changing, but not altogether in a bad way. Unfortunately, however, the 60s would from the time of the Kent State shootings on (great military eh? FUCK 'EM!) be dashed to a grave of more violent political outbursts and hard times living out what was a dream.
Witchcraft is an album you have to play with an open mind. You have to free yourself of all prejudice and just listen to Jinx's banshee wails and sweeter phrasings. You have to groove with Nielsen's psychedelic guitar work. The lyrics are all about violent magical happenings and events in history. The songs are sophisticated and haunting. Jinx already was asserting herself as a catalyst, prodigy, and great writer. I really think that Coven are one of the great bands and as they evolved their abilities would grow even more. This album tells you in the most blatant manner about the destruction of the dreams of people who were trying to stop this country from destroying the world. There are no songs about war and no songs with political sentiments, but through the netherworld of darker magic we hear all we need to hear and Coven's atmospheric sound won't let go of you when you open your mind and heart and soul to it. The first track a full year before the band of the same name's first album had been written is "Black Sabbath." This demonic psychedelic number is really something incredibly good! Listen to Jinx wail and roar, listen to all the effects, listen to the progressive structuring- an amazing song! The album is full of songs like the haunting ballad "Portrait" where Jinx sings beautifully, the Airplane style yet way better psych-rock of "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge," and the psychedelic masterpiece "Coven In Charring Cross" which together with the amazing rock song "The White Witch Of Rose Hall" (who really existed) are major standouts on an album only marred by the inclusion of the groundbreaking, but impossible unless you could have seen them do it live "Black Mass." Jinx takes early Grace Slick and way beats her out. The Jefferson Airplane had begun as one of our brightest bands, but only for the first three albums and destroyed by the sick and nasty and disgusting Crown Of Creation (Crap And Destruction is what I call it!!!) which ended them for me. You can't write songs that are as sick as that album's closing track "House At Pooneil Corner" (about nuclear holocaust and knowing nothing on that subject! Listen instead to Denmark's Pretty Maids earthshaking "Future World" on that subject from way later in 1986 when people knew more) nd the horrifying "Curse Of The Witches" by The Strawberry Alarm Clock and get away with it. It only shows you have no conscience and nothing else.
Coven's first album was greeted with horrible reviews, an impossibility to play most of it live at regular clubs, and the sad simple fact it was too ahead of its time to sell. The album was not seen in the right way and Jinx at one gig was confined to having to do the between songs talking in Latin! Jinx, in an interview I heard, says that later in their career they were almost murdered and just barely escaped! So there's American Freedom (up your arse Amerika!) for you! Coven scared stupid people shitless. And people who would love their music couldn't get Witchcraft when Mercury pulled it from release when Rolling Stone showed a picture of horrible and should-be-dead Charles Manson holding it in one of their issues. Jinx wants all of you to know that COVEN HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH MANSON AND DO NOT SUPPORT MURDER! It was time for some vengeance. Coven got that vengeance by burning Mercury's offices and fleeing to the friendly company of Frank Zappa and his Mothers Of Invention (this was the early 70s era Mothers to be exact and I love you Frank rest in peace) in L.A. Zappa took the band under his wing and the whole Zappa and Mothers band took really good care of the disillusioned Coven.
Coven wanted to play live. They wanted to take their music to new levels, but it would only be in a very different way that they could mature as a band and take themselves into their best musical and songwriting abilities. Unfortunately, fame and fortune took Jinx and nearly demolished her career in the process when Linda Ronstadt (the lark voiced Linda who is suffering horribly now) who was then with Zappa wasn't available to sing the theme song in 1972 for a movie about a massacre on a reservation (shame on the White fools for putting the Natives there!) called Billy Jack and Jinx was kind of pushed into it. A solo performance of Jinx and orchestra the sad and heartbreaking, but TOO SAD AND HEARTBREAKING "One Tin Soldier" was already a hit for Canadian band The Original Caste (it was actually stolen from them by Lambert and Potter) and Coven would ultimately get credited for Jinx's version when it had nothing to do with Coven. The song shot up the charts and MGM signed Coven to a tiny imprint called something like "Sunshine Snake." That's all that the success had done for them after the commercial flop of a brilliant band effort.
It wasn't what the band wanted, but they'd take the huge hit and they tried at that point with John Hobbs on keyboards to make a new fresh start musically. Taking the Chicago blues, progressive rock, and their psychedelic ambitions along with hard rock and pop in equal alignment Coven made quite a good album with their self-titled second in 1972, but it was miles from their original intentions and curiously Nielsen's bluesy rock vocals were featured more than Jinx's on Side Two. Chris and Jinx probably both decided on that and John Hobbs turned out to be a fantastic keyboard player. It was time for Coven to lick their wounds. In America at that time music was a bit behind the rest of the world and in a strange place, but for the most part a good one. Unlike the more musically evolving and exciting Germany, England, and Scandinavia America was not really and never will be as good at music on a large scale despite our size. Also, America never was the country it puffs itself up about being when it comes to that now vomit-inducing word "Freedom," This was the Nixon era and a bad, bad, BAD(!) time. However, bands were beginning as far back as 1970 to get mad and get even with the political situation and the industry and I in no way shape or form hate American bands. People were still trying and for Coven in particular it was gonna be a fight against all the crookedness and bullshit. They would run into more difficulties when the new sound didn't take off and it was really upsetting and hard to believe that Jinx and the whole band were being given such a horrendous treatment. The band were just beginning the battle, however, and would go out musical champions!
Two full years went by before Coven's final and best album Blood On The Snow now on Buddha Records (their third label). It was released in a striking watercolour gatefold with very dark allusions including Jinx licking a skull. The album came out rather unnoticed, but it brought down all the competition. Blood On The Snow was Coven without any strings being pulled. This album was a new beginning for just one record, a bright warm day in the middle of a long cold spell, and the best American album of the early 70s all rolled into one! With Jinx singing beautifully or wailing her heart out and the band playing with the tight discipline only hinted at on the previous 1972 album listen to Blood On The Snow and it's clear that Jinx created what would be chart-topping hugeness for the Buckingham/Nicks era Fleetwood Mac and Anne Wilson in Heart. So a career that began with theft resulting in fame for another band would end with knowing loving tribute I think more so this time. Anne Wilson and Stevie Nicks have never been vicious and mean people who lie through their teeth.
Blood On The Snow is a different kind of an album and is more similar to the progressive rock and melodic power pop things going around, but not going around enough. Coven were now back to sounding more British/American combined, but in a very different light. Jinx proved she could master beautiful vocals with intelligent lyrics and some things were sneaked by Buddha who were paying no attention to the band. "I Need A Hundred Of You" is a masterpiece with subtle witchy leanings in the lyrics and lovely vocals from Jinx, "Don't Call Me" starts the record off with a hard rocking fist in the face like the best of early Heart before early Heart (!), "This Song's For All You Children" is achingly soul-searching and full of love, and the album is wonderful from start to finish. Other amazing tracks are "Lady-O" which is a beautiful pop/rock song and the epics "Blue Blue Ships" and "Lost Without A Trace." Also of note is the sly cover of "Easy Evil" an old soul standard and Chris Nielsen's fun, sassy, and great rocker "Hide Your Daughters." The album closes with the dark and chaotic psychedelic freakout mastery of the title track. Coven's best and by far one of the best albums in the whole entire history of rock in this sick country that would soon destroy Coven's career.
There are no weak links here, and Coven across three albums had made three wondrous albums, but unfortunately this movie wasn't gonna end with our heroes triumphing and going out with a huge bang of success. No, Coven would be victims of real and frightening violence and derision against them for their whole career and when they were nearly murdered I'm pretty sure that was the end. Misunderstandings, poor management, too far ahead of the time, it was all working against a band who later WOULD BE HAILED AS HEROES. Jinx and the band just sort of fell into disarray and after 1975 Coven were no longer around. In 1975 there had been no albums, but a great song and video you can see and hear on YouTube called "Come In Out Of The Rain." Coven also invented videos before MTV with the wild and demonic video for "Blood On The Snow" I might add. Coven and Jinx weren't going to sulk and whine and moan. For them their music and their magic had always come before any kind of commercial breakthrough. They were a real band. They are still playing together and planning some new exciting things and Jinx is a happy beautiful woman. I must stress how beautiful Jinx is both in her appearance and as a person. I usually, as a gay man, am not very interested in having much to do with the opposite sex, but Jinx would make a great friend and a great teacher. She rejects Christianity for the same reasons I do and she practices magic and comes from a family tradition that is strong, resilient and proud. I love Jinx. I have dreams where she makes them wonderful dreams. Jinx, if you happen to read this I hope your career has in bringing you a following of devoted music and magic lovers brought you what you hoped it would bring you. Coven and Jinx, keep the music alive. Thank you so much for the inspiration and the courage you give to me.