Lava 1981-1983 / Explore Rights Management 2022
Long-forgotten prog ballet emerges from obscurity to shine ever brightly.
Having arrived in Germany as a British soldier in the late ’60s, multi-instrumentalist and singer Jon Symon found a sheer music field to plow once Krautrock kicked in in its various strands, and decided to stay. Playing as a one-man band called first ONE-MAN BAND and then RASPUTIN, who issued a few singles, culminated in the crystallizing of a WARLOCK concept whose idea was simple: to lay down a wizardry-themed album with a prospect of expanding the platter into different performing arts, such as ballet, further down the line. Cue “Memories Of A White Magician” which saw not one but two distinct releases, in 1981 and 1983, with Symon providing all the parts for the former and inviting outside artists, some from ELOY, to embellish the latter. The reason for this, and for replacing a number of tracks with fresh material, seems impossible to come by now that Jon passed away, yet having both versions on a couple of discs feels gratifying.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense comparing the two variants, except for to note that the longer 1983 record appears somewhat less focused than the album’s 1981 prototype whose bewitching, sinisterly gossamer opener “Warlock” would be severely shortened to become an intro afterwards; and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pull at individual strands which comprise an almost orchestral tapestry of this double-edged opus, except to note Symon’s ability to rein in extravaganza other proponents of art-rock could pursue. There are only the dramatic finales “Into Eternity” and “Wizard King” to scale the grandiose scope many-layered ivories and guitars weave, while pieces like the groovy “Angel Of Death” or the glacial “Four Seasons Of The Soul” and especially the cheery “Magician” – shared between the versions and given sharper riffs and sharper relief on the second one – betray Jon’s affinity for an infectious electropop refrain with no shred of gloom attached. But then, there’s a lot of space to breathe on early epics “Pagan Memory” and “Spirits Of Hell” where histrionic spoken word, enchanting vocalese and cosmic synthesizers paint hypnotic and haunting, if creepy, panoramas over the relentless tide of supple bass only to dissolve in an acoustically tinged, if not fragile despite the flutter of a flute, pseudo-ancient balladry.
However, the heavy arrangements and saccharine voices “Saucers” and “Morgan Le Fay” show on the 1983 disc take these rocking cuts towards glam territory and render the overall drift rather superficial, and even the sax-smeared anthemic rise of “Pendragon” should fail to remedy this. But the softer edge “Vision Of The Wizard” demonstrates may do so before “Neutron Fire” shifts from Arthurian lore into cinematic hymn to the future as seen from the ’80s perspective. Slightly outdated by today’s standards, “Memories Of A White Magician” can still can still charm the listener and is worth recalling.