Coven: Blood on the Snow (Real Gone)

Third and final album from misunderstood one-hit wonders

Though now remembered for their remake of the Original Caste’s “One Tin Soldier,” this Chicago-bred band initially gained renown for the controversy that had previously sunk their commercial opportunities. Led by vocalist Jinx Dawson, the Coven was arguably the first rock band to adopt occult symbology, inverted crosses and the hand-thrown sign of the horns, and their 1969 Mercury debut, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, included a thirteen-minute “Satanic Mass.” Ahead of their times, they were tripped up by growing public anxiety about cults, and when an Esquire magazine suggested a false connection between the band and Charles Manson, the group’s fortunes quickly collapsed; albums returned, shows cancelled, and their recording contract dropped. Had their debut (which was reissued digitally by the band in 2015, and more recently on vinyl by Real Gone) been their epitaph, they would have earned an interesting niche in rock ‘n’ roll history. But there was more.

Resettled in Los Angeles, Dawson was tapped to cover the Original Caste’s 1969 anti-war song as the theme for the film Billy Jack. Recorded with studio musicians and an orchestra, but credited to Coven, the single rose to #26 in 1971, and netted Jinx and a newly formed Coven a record deal with MGM. Their eponymous album included a band version of “One Tin Soldier,” which itself charted in 1973 and again in 1974, cementing the group’s popular identity as a one-hit wonder. At the same time, the group had moved from MGM to Buddah where they released this third and final album. By this point, the public connection to their occult beginnings were lost in the sands of time, and neither the controversy that had originally derailed them, nor their one-off movie hit could lift them back into the mainstream.

By the time this album was released in 1974, Coven was playing catch up with the more calculated occult references others had built into heavy metal. Produced by Shel Talmy, the album features a variety of hard rock, glam, and pop that was closer to the mainstream than the blues-rock theatricality of the group’s debut. “This Song’s For All You Children” suggests radio-friendly Todd Rundgren, “Lady-O” has strings and touches of country in the piano and vocal melody, and “Don’t Call Me” resounds with the punk energy of the Dolls. But there are also traces of the band’s early days in the blues rock “Hide Your Daughters,” the progressive “Lost Without a Trace,” and “Easy Evil,” and the closing title title track.

In 1974 Buddah was likely focused on the success of their marquee act, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and reintroducing Coven to AM (which was by then was only lightly speckled with BTO, Bad Company and Grand Funk) would have been difficult. FM had long since forgotten the controversial genesis that might have made the band interesting to the underground, and even an experimental music video couldn’t reignite interest. All of which is a shame, as Dawson remained a powerful vocal talent, and many of the songs are catchy and played with style. Pop music acclaim has always been  a fickle reward based on a supernatural alignment of circumstances, and the stars didn’t align for this third and final album. Reissued with the original album’s gatefold cover, this is a nice souvenir of a band whose momentary fame overshadowed the charms of their catalog. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.