Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Writing On The Wall - 1969 - Power Of The Picts

Writing On The Wall 
Power Of The Picts

01. It Came on a Sunday (4:18)
02. Mrs. Cooper's Pie (3:21)
03. Ladybird (3:47)
04. Aries (8:09)
05. Bogeyman (3:44)
06. Shadow of a Man (3:52)
07. Tasker's Successor (3:43)
08. Hill of Dreams (3:06)
09. Virginia Waters (5:57)
10. Child on a Crossing (3:32)
11. Lucier Corpus (5:47)

- Willy Finlayson / guitar, vocals
- Alby Greenhalg / wind instruments
- Jimmy Hush / drums
- Billy T. Scott / keyboards
- Jake Scott / bass, vocals
- Linnie Patterson / vocals

The band that became WRITING ON THE WALL began as Scottish soul band the JURY in the mid-sixties, but transforming themselves like so many of their contemporaries into a psychedelic-tinged group along with their renaming in 1968. The band issued but one official studio album, the 1969 release 'The Power of the Picts'. Like many evolving groups caught in the midst of rapid musical evolution in the late sixties, WRITING ON THE WALL retained much of the blues influence of the music they came of age with by mixing heavy and sometimes uneven blend of psych, blues with idealistic and often abstract lyrics to form a distinctly late sixties sound reminiscent of groups like BLUES IMAGE, CACTUS, and BABE RUTH. Writing's music tended toward a more somber tone than most of their peers, and the band further distinguished themselves by relocating to England to make somewhat of an impression on the British scene of that day. The band recorded for DJ John Peel in late1968, and released their sole album on Brian Waldman's fledging Middle Earth label. Waldman also served as the band's manager, and secured them gigs in his club, also named Middle Earth.

While Writing failed to launch with their studio release, the band's live shows attracted them some attention (mostly in England), and the band managed to hold together until 1973 while touring and recording occasionally, including a second album in 1972 and the beginning of a third before waning interest and the theft of their equipment caused the groups to dissolve in 1973. Neither of the band's other albums was released at the time, although numerous compilations and "reissues" of dubious legitimacy have been made available since. The band's debut was reissued in 2007 on Orc Records with bonus material including much of the previous unreleased studio work. Guitarist Willy Finlayson went on to stints with the bands MEAL TICKET, BEES MAKE HONEY and his own group the HURTERS, as well as an appearance on MANFRED MANN's 'Earthband' release. Singer the late Linnie Paterson joined BEGGAR'S OPERA, Robert 'Smiggy' Smith joined the aptly-named BLUE, Alby Greenhalgh joined the rockabilly outfit the FLYING SAUCERS, and bassist Jake Scott formed the obscure jazz group XU-XU PLESA.

 Sole album from this Edinburgh quintet (formerly known as The Jury) relocated in London. Their Hammond-based proto-prog was also proto-hard-rock if you like that sort of pigeonholing: but in either case, WotW was amongst the pioneers of the genre, since thir album was released in 69. Indeed, Bill Scott's dominating organ gives the band a solid sound that can make you think of Atomic Rooster or during their wilder moments of Arthur Brown's Crazy World. The band had a raw sound with Patterson's vocals and anarchy-loving lyrics (the opening track of It Came On Sunday), but Finlayson's sizzling fuzzling guitar gives it the extra oomph to go overboard. Of course, the band's choices of artwork and album title (the Pict tribes not reminding the English many merry souvenirs) were somewhat questionable, and it probably didn't help them break out of the local club circuit, though they did manage to find the Middle Earth club and record label.
The album consists mostly of relatively short songs, though calling their format commercial would very misleading. While some are fairly straightforward (Sunday, Ladybird, etc..), others are more elaborate (Mrs Cooper's Pie, Shadow Of Man, Hills Of Dreams) with some of their proggier moments bearing shades of Deep Purple (mkI). Of course, the main selling point of this album to progheads will be the lengthy (8-mins) Aries piece, which goes east, north, west, south and centre, but remaining focused ll the way through. Other excellent stand-outs are the slightly longer Shadow of Man and Viginia Waters. The album's only real flaw of the album is the (thankfully short) dumb folk ditty Bogeyman piece, which should've never seen the album, or even the light of day (for its own sake). An accordion piece, but you'll also find that yucky instrument on Hill Of Dreams.

The Repertoire label CD reissue features the non-album single tracks of the same year and both of them are well in line with the album's overall sound. The band would apparently record a US-release live album (not sure it was legit either) and a further single in 73, before falling apart; with their ex-members migrating to other projects, but never making it "big". While you may have trouble with the album's production standard, the open-minded proghead won't have problems adapting and enjoying, because it is definitely a very interesting brand of proto-hard-prog, and the album will gracefully and rightfully sit in your shelves not too far away from the bands mentioned above.

1 comment:

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