Dreams in the Witch House: The Complete Philips Recordings
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Repressing. Digitally remastered collection from the legendary Chicago Psychedelic band containing their entire recorded output on one CD. 23 tracks including previously uncompiled alternate single versions of 'The White Ship' and 'Keeper of the Keys'. Rev-Ola.
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After listening to Dreams In The Witch House several times, I find the material sorely dated. Though it epitomizes the times in which it was current, the music has not aged well. The songwriting and musicianship is weak, while the vocals are indifferent and amateurish. For those of you who have not heard H P Lovecraft, maybe it will help if I liken their sound to that of a second-rate Jefferson Airplane/Starship and/or Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. Though the band is from Chicago, they have what came to be known as the "San Francisco Sound" and indeed, they spent a lot of time playing that scene.
Despite my complaints, the CD is at least listenable, particularly if you are in the mood to mentally drift back to the bygone psychedelic era. This CD will likely be of interest ultimately to only the very small number of people who made the psychedelic scene. However, I warn fans of H P Lovecraft (the writer) that despite that some of the song titles are also titles of Lovecraft stories, that's where any relationship between song and story ends. Since I am a huge fan of Lovecraft the writer, I found that somewhat disappointing. I won't be playing this recording often, but I am not going to get rid of it either.
"I've Been Wrong Before" could pass for another Jefferson Airplane song (specifically "Today" from their Surrealistic Pillow album). Alright enough of these Jefferson Airplane comparisons! Anyway the vocals are amazingly impactful and sincere in this ballad- I love this song. "Drifter" is pretty awesome and rocks for its time. I love the lyrics "I've played basketball through the hoop of a barrel, I struggle to learn how to swim now, I used to think maybe I once was a baby, I only pretend I was him now, I'm a drifter, I'm a loner, I've seen every city and town now, I've passed by here, and I'll die here, some stranger will lower me down yeah". "That's the Bag I'm In" has hilarious lyrics, especially the first line "My toast is cold my orange juice is hot, I could stop over but I'd really rather not, same thing would happen again 'cuz that's the bag I'm in!" These guys are quite instrumentally diverse too.
"White Ship" reminds me of... yeah, *that* band! The marching drums, the somber tone, the memorable dreamy vocal melody with the keyboard work chugging along... this is great stuff. Gotta love the harpsichord solo near the end before the chorus returns. "The white ship has sailed and left me here again". This is actually pretty freaky stuff. It does give me a feeling of standing in the darkness and fog awaiting a ship that never comes. "Country Boy & Bleeker Street" is a blues song with great, though severely dated keyboard work. This isn't your typical blues tune, though. It's structured like a blues tune but it feels happier than it should. "Time Machine" is a genius idea. You were probably expecting the ultimate psychedelic song with a title like "Time Machine" weren't you? Yes you were, admit it! Instead this is some ragtime, tap-dancing old fashioned stage show-like tune with jazzy instrumentation. Yeah, I wasn't expecting this either, haha!
"That's How Much I Love You Baby (More Or Less)" is hilariously named just because of the "More or Less" part! The lyrics are hilarious too- apparently not paying the rent is related to loving your baby more or less! Love the sneaky lounge-like way the vocal melody flows. "Gloria Patria" is a short burst of eerie chants before the song shifts into "Spin, Spin Spin" with delicate, but powerful piano playing as the appealingly messy way of the Jefferson Airplane-like vocals makes this song a beautiful and memorable one. I love the piano jam at the end- wish it lasted a couple minutes longer. "It's About Time" for the rising sun, it's about time that the deed was done, a better day's coming that's the thing I know... alright enough. Enough of my silliness! Meaningful upbeat lyrics with chugging piano work about ending the war and looking to a brighter future. I wish for the same thing but wars continue to happen either way. It's pretty annoying I know. Anyway due to the piano turning dreamy and the keyboards, this song becomes downright eerie and Epyptian-y during a jam in the middle with beautiful touches of orchestration soon following. Maybe this song's a minute or two overlong though.
"Blue Jack of Diamonds" has eerie acoustic guitar work and downbeat lyrics about being alone, kings and a disappearing queen. This is a REALLY strange tune with an awesome vocal melody! "Electrollentando" begins with rattling chimes and soon morphs into the greatest drug trip through a carnival you've ever felt (hey the tone reminds me of a carnival at least, probably unintentionally). A song you'd play if you feel like flying, this one. This is a fantastic song! All of it. Right down to the piano playing too. "At the Mountains of Madness" has unusual vocal work. They're soaring, psychedelic and uplifting which is obvious but... I'm not sure how memorable this melody really is. At least not yet. It's a bit too repetitive but the keyboard work and the creepy atmosphere enhances the song somewhat.
"Mobius Trip" is the best song in the world that describes walking down the streets of a city as high as a kite and admiring the people and your surroundings. I've never done drugs but I imagine you'd see the people, the buildings, the nearby park and the cars all changing colors and shapes before your very eyes! This is a *fantastic* song! "High Flying Bird" has groovy bass work and a likeable vocal melody. I like the weird vocal tricks in the background during the line "The sun lights up the day". What the? A Spanish guitar in the middle, haha. Nice! The part near the end "Sit down, can't cry, gonna die" is AWESOME! "Nothing's Boy" is a 1-minute creepy poem before powerful Italian operatic vocals of "Keeper of the Keys" comes in and the gentle orchestration in the middle is just gorgeous, as is the piano.
"Anyway That You Want Me" has really meaningful lyrics with a fantastic vocal melody. I especially LOVE the way the song picks up as the line "Anyway that you want me, anyway that you take me, anyway that you make me part of you, anyway at all" is sung. This song's brilliant. "It's All Over For You" is another vocal melody delight. "I've played your game too many times the one that I call love" is a powerful line. Pretty sure this is a Bob Dylan cover song but I could be wrong. The album finishes with two edited versions of "White Ship" and "Keeper of the Keys" which is something I dislike. NEVER put edited versions of songs on an album where you can experience the full length version. These versions are alright but come on, they shouldn't be here. The regular versions are vastly superior.
Overall this is a REALLY awesome 5-star album and I highly recommend it.