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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jon Symon’s Warlock

Memories Of A White Magician (2 CD Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

I've reviewed another album from this act for this issue of Music Street Journal. This double disc set is an interesting one. The first disc features the original album, recorded in 1981. On that album Jon Symon plays all the instruments. Two years later, the album was rerecorded, sort of, and those recordings appear on the second CD. I say "sort of" because some songs from the first are rerecorded on the new one, but many of the songs on that second disc are pieces not included on the first one. There are other musicians joining Symon on the second disc. Personally, I prefer the first one. It's a long lost masterpiece of prog rock to me. The second seems to try to hard to be relevant in a new wave world and loses some magic because of it. Still, both are worthwhile. One is just better.

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Track by Track Review
Disc One;
The 1981 Recordings

Keys and effects start this. A vocal comes in over the top of a space rock styled keyboard soundscape. The sound of thunder appears at times. Slow moving, expressive guitar is heard further down the musical road. A distorted, spoken vocal later sounds like something from "Doctor Who" to me. Keyboards swirl around to end this largely understated opener that brings a definite space rock sound.

Pagan Memory
Coming in with more of a rocking approach, this still has some definite space rock angles at play. The first vocals on this track are spoken, but there are sung ones later. This makes me think of something Nik Turner might have written in the 1970s. There is a dramatic instrumental break that brings some hints of Middle-Eastern music. That turns toward more pure prog rock explorations as it continues. More space rock styled concepts take over beyond that section for the entrance of the next vocals. The explore an intersection of space rock and more pure prog as it drives sans vocals for a time later. The cut continues growing and evolving before it ends.
Spirits Of Hell
Acoustic guitar starts this song in sedate ways. After the mellow introduction (that does get some other instruments added to it), the tune shifts to a bouncy, Celtic rocking texture. If the first two tracks were space rock, this lands firmly in the vein of folk prog of acts like The Strawbs. I love the bass work on this, but everything about it is effective. As flute plays over a section later, it begs comparisons to Jethro Tull. After another vocal movement we get a cool jam that features prominent drumming and killer guitar work. There is a more world music based vocal thing right at the end of this.
Angel Of Death
Drumming is at the forefront as this thing gets going. In fact, other than some atmosphere, the drums are the only thing heard for more than a minute. This gives way to more of a mainstream rock sound. Don't get me wrong, it still has some prog in the mix, and some definite space elements, but it's more of an AOR rocker overall.
Four Seasons Of A Soul
A keyboard arrangement creates the backdrop for the vocals here. Keyboards remain the only instrumentation here. Some female backing vocals bring drama later on in the song.
The Magician
A bouncy prog rocker, this has some definite folk rock in the mix. It works through a number of cool twists and turns along the road. This gets pretty involved and various instruments get to show off a little along the trail. The vocal arrangement is suitably complex and rich, too. There are definitely some soaring moments here.
Into Eternity
Dramatic guitar driven instrumental prog is on the menu at the opening of this. It has some neo-classical elements in the mix. A spoken vocal brings a space rock drama. It turns keyboard heavy later and reminds me a little of "Child In Time" from Deep Purple. This really is a dramatic and powerful piece that makes for a great closer.
Disc Two;
The 1983 Recordings

This is similar to the version on the first disc, but it is much shorter and more direct, only running a little over half a minute.

Angel Of Death
This drives out with plenty of energy and style. It is more new wave sounding in some ways. The vocals feel rather punky. I can see this version being more relevant to the era, but I much prefer the other take.
Four Seasons Of The Soul
This version of the song from the previous disc isn't a huge change, but the general demeanor seems a bit less lush. The guitar solo is expressive and strong. That manages to elevate things a bit, but I definitely prefer the version on the other disc.
There seems to be some hints of reggae rock, like some of the 80s Rush music had. I think that I might like this one better than the recording of it on the other disc. It really rocks well and has some cool angles to it.
Here's the first song that we didn't get on the other disc. This is a hard rocker that still manages some proggy elements. It definitely has a new wave angle to it, though. This has a fairly fierce guitar solo.
Another new one here, this instrumental is essentially a keyboard solo. It has some effects later. It's melodic and powerful and one of the highlights of this second CD for me. It drifts into effects zones at the end.
Morgan Le Fay
Now, this hard rocker is intriguing. It's another that didn't have a corresponding track on the first disc. It has a definite punky angle to it. The chorus is catchy. The tune has some Hawkwind-like angles, but also some new wave. This is a lot of fun. The saxophone solo later is a nice touch.
Another new tune, this feels more like something that would have fit on the first disc. It has a definite folk prog meets space vibe to it. It's perhaps a bit harder edged than that suggests, but it works well as an explanation. Again we get a saxophone solo here.
Vision Of The Wizard
There is a metal edge to this cut. It's much more mainstream rock, and not as interesting as far as I'm concerned. This is another not present on the other version. Saxophone shows up on this one, too.
Neutron Fire
Another song without a corresponding equivalent on disc one, this has a more proggy vibe to it than most of the stuff on this second disc. It feels more like it might have fit on the other one. There is a prog arrangement to this, but it is of the AOR type, and it has a bit of a new wave lean. This is one of my favorites on this disc.
Wizard King
There is a definite folk rock element to this, particularly as it gets underway. This is one of the proggiest pieces on the second disc. It's also the most complex. Since this is the final track of the disc, it's also the final one that's new for this second recording.
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