Thursday, June 18, 2020

Wizard - 1971 - The Original Wizard

The Original Wizard

01. Freedom 5:15
02. Come And See The Bride 3:56
03. What Do You Know About Mary? 2:24
04. Opus Ate 3:25
05. Goin' Away 2:48
06. Killing Time 4:57
07. Got To See My Way 2:37
08. Ride 3:00
09. Seance 3:46
10. Talkin' To God 2:32
11. Evergreen 3:50
12. Got Love 3:09
13. Freedom 4:03

Tracks 12 and 13 are bonus tracks from the Penguin 45 P-100-A

Drums – Chris Luhn
Guitar, Vocals – Benji Schultz
Lead Vocals, Bass – Paul Forney

The University Of South Florida at Tampa, 1970: Paul Forney was playing gigs as a bass player when a good friend of his Charlie Souza (later of Cactus fame) gave him Ben Schultz's number. Ben invited Paul to play a gig with them, straight jam. no rehearsal. Ben apparently took an immediate liking to Paul. Chris Luhn was Brother's roadie. Ben Schultz met Chris during his sophomore year at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

 When they were not performing on stage, they were rehearsing, writing and jamming with everyone in sight. The road trips consisted of a 1967 Pontiac Bonneville pulling a U-Haul trailer full of instruments, amps, and a half-assed p.a. system that Ben and their then-manager had soldered together in Ben's family room. The highlight of that first summer "tour" was the Goose Lake Festival, outside Detroit.

Wizard crashed with the members of Third Power, and spent the better part of two weeks sleeping all day. and jamming all night with the Power, and whoever happened to drop in. including some of the people from Catfish, Frijid Pink, Bob Seeger. And God-knows-who else. By the time they bull shitted their way on to the program at Goose Lake, they had been together for only about ten weeks, but had logged about 1,000 hours of rehearsing and jamming. Chris was the oldest member of the group at 19 but the guys nevertheless managed to achieve a great sense of pride and accomplishment in their work.

Eventually,  Wizard caught the attention of Decca Record's Bob Fletcher, who brought the group to Atlanta for a recording session. The session lasted only a few days. Virtually every song on the album The Original Wizard was a "live" take (i.e., no dubbing and no multiple tracks). The following winter, they played one of their more memorable gigs at an indoor festival at the Hollywood (Florida) Fair-grounds. Van Morrison was the big draw for the night, and they were supposed to have gone on in the morning. Because of some snafu, the band wound up sitting around the fairgrounds until about 5:00 p.m. when they were practically shoved onto the stage.

Although Wizard continued to perform on the same stage with groups like Chicago. Mountain, Rod Stewart and Iron Butterfly, they never made it back into the studio. Within 16 months of forming, the group born so spontaneously just called it quits. After the break up of Wizard. Paul went on to play with the trio "Bacchus" for several years and played a lot of clubs in Southern Florida. He did stints with Timmy Thomas.

Little Beaver, Gwen Macrae, and the Jimmy Castor Bunch until finally quitting the tour circuit in 1980 and earning a degree in Electrical Engineering from USF. He retrained in classical music but now enjoys a career in industrial automation and lives, plays, and works in Southern California. Ben Schultz went on to both live and studio work with the likes of Carmine Appice, Schultz & Butcher,, Buddy Miles , Belinda Carlisle, Gregg Alexander, Barefoot Servants, Steve Stills, Diana Ross, Small Faces, Rod Stewart, Ric Ocasek and Rick Nelson.

He now resides in Southern California. Chris wandered wandered in and out of college before settling in in Baltimore where, in 1982, he went back to school, getting a law degree in 1985 and set up a law practice in upstate New York. None of the band deludes themselves that this release will do anything other than gratify some collectors and trivia buffs. Still, here it is, for whatever it is worth. After twenty-seven odd years, Ben, Paul and Chris have reestablished their friend-ship, and are humbled to know that there are some "out there" who still care about raw, loud, no-holds-barred rock. They hope that this offering satisfies a small measure of that craving.
(cd liner notes)

Musically, The Original Wizard is hard-driving, power-trio rock informed by bits of both the blues and psychedelia, and, as such, it is one of countless albums trying to rise out of the crowded acid-rock field that had grown increasingly ponderous and meat-headed since the '60s, when psychedelia began as a means more than an ends. By the early '70s, that field had morphed mostly into excessive hard rock, characterized by self-importance, pedestrian songwriting, and overlong solos, and even the most popular bands tended toward self-absorbed posturing. On their only album, Wizard could not escape those stylistic tendencies entirely because they had been informed by them, but their sound was considerably more imaginative and interesting than much hard rock from the period, including many of the similar bands who earned far more commercial popularity than they did. The album certainly has its share of less-than-interesting moments; it has too many of the hallmarks of period hard rock. The band occasionally comes across as far too full of themselves as well. Their music is loud, aggressive, and marinated in the sort of ominous, mystical chord changes that make it seem "important," even when a composition is not so. There are plenty of indulgent, overblown solos on the album; lyrically Wizard asserts a period political consciousness that is none too novel, shouting about "freedom," expressing outrage at the recent Kent State killings ("Killing Time"), threatening to drop out of society ("Goin' Away") or attain enlightenment ("Séance," "Talkin' to God"), and conspicuously burying the word higher in song about a "girl" named Mary. And yet, although nearly every song contains a slight blemish of the grandiose, the bits of inspiration and moments of sonic excitement that pop up outnumber the missteps. The songwriting is uneven, but when Wizard is on -- variously recalling the Doors, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, and fellow acid-rock obscurities Stack, in a positive sense -- they're much more imaginative than most of their peers. The highlights require some treasure hunting, but they are certainly present. Wizard's single, "Got Love," has a joyous, almost country-gospel sensibility along the lines of Delaney & Bonnie, and there are even more country inflections on "Ride" and the understated boogie "Goin' Away." "Come and See the Bride" opens with a fabulous organ-dirge-to-pop-song explosion, while "Séance" is legitimately mystical. When the guitar playing is reigned in -- as it is on the mumbling wah-wah of "Got to See My Way" and in the echoing lines on "Evergreen" -- it is phenomenal. The Original Wizard certainly has a wealth of ideas; had it been given a bit more thought and care, it might have actually been good.



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