JON SYMON'S WARLOCK

"Lady McBeth" (Explore Multimedia; 1984/2022)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This is the first ever release of the much-respected progressive rock album by Jon Symon's Warlock. It's also the first time I've ever listened to it, so keep that in mind as I continue my review.

As you may have guessed from the title, "Lady McBeth" is a concept album and it plays through like one. The songs vary from jaunty little numbers to hard rockers to the heartfelt ballads. The musicianship and songwriting are impressive throughout. The sound quality is excellent. If you're a fan of progrock, especially vintage progrock, then this is right up your alley.

There are also some very dated sounds here and they're a little awkward. Don't get me wrong, this is the way it was originally recorded and the way it should presented. But there are the use of synthesizers in some songs that just sound goofy. Like a 70s or 80s TV police show theme might sound. They don't happen often, but they're there.

That being said, this is an enjoyable album throughout, as long as you're thinking more along the lines of Emerson, Lake and Palmer than Dream Theater. Regardless, it's great to have the opportunity to give this a listen, especially when, sadly, Symon passed away in 2015. 

"Memories of a White Magician" (Explore Multimedia; 1981/1983/2022)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This double disc set marks the first time ever that this much-admired progrock album has been released to CD. And, as an added bonus, you get both the original 1981 version and the re-worked 1983 version (with additional tracks).

"Memories of the White Magician" is a concept album regarding Merlin the Magician and King Arthur. It's a story most people know, but it's never been told like this.

Disc One is the original 1981 version and it opens with the slow and eerie, "Warlock." "Pagan Memory" is next, running just over seven minutes, and it's here that we first run into this album's only real issue. It's dated. The synthesizers sounds like something out of a George Romero movie. That's okay, because that's what the album originally sounded like. But they're oblivious in this day and age, especially when the other instruments and vocals still work so well. These off-putting synthesizers sounds appear here and there throughout this recording. I don't know. Maybe if you're a fan of the classic progrock era then you might be okay with these. They sounded a little goofy to me.

That being said, the 1981 version of "Memories of a White Magician" works well enough. The 1983 version, however, is even better.

First of all, there seem to be fewer of the wince-inducing synthesizers. Second, the sound is fuller, the music crisper. A little harder-edged, too, which helps. There are also four additional tracks which makes for a fuller listening experience.

Overall, both versions of "Memories of a White Magician" are quite entertaining and part of an interesting history. Jon Symon died in 2015, so it's a privilege to be able to hear this music after all these years.

A note of caution: Apparently, the CD product contains both the 1981 and 1983 versions. The MP3 product has them separated into two different albums.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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