Coven

Coven

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Three years after their Mercury debut, the Coven come back on an MGM imprint, Sunshine Snake Records, with a more musical album produced by Frank Laughlin and Larry Brown, though their hit record, "One Tin Soldier," included here, was produced, arranged, and conducted by Mundell Lowe. The cover photography by William R. Eastabrook is pretty clever, a black cat in front of the five bandmembers, whose faces have been removed. Only an eye of the cat stares out from the picture. Where the original album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls, generated interest for its notorious content, the pop music crafted on this self-titled sophomore disc had to stand on its own. And it does when Jinx Dawson is given a melody and allowed to sing, as on the opening track, "Nightingale," something not afforded her on the Witchcraft experiment. She and guitarist Christopher Nielsen, who also gets a more expanded role here, are responsible for the material. Dawson can actually belt out a tune when given the opportunity; the problem is that the tunes aren't always there. "Shooting Star" has little to offer, while the LP's longest track, the four-minute "Natural Love," heads into bluesier territory with Dawson coming on like Kathi MacDonald of Big Brother & the Holding Company. That style may seem a bit out of place on this LP, but it's better than the lackluster arrangement of the number one Elvis Presley hit from 15 years prior, "Jailhouse Rock." If you're going to take on sacred territory, you'd better do it some justice. "What Can I Get out of You" is leaden, as is "Dark Day in Chitown," for that matter. This album certainly has less personality than their debut -- the bandmembers' names aren't even on the back cover. Jinx Dawson sounds commanding on "Lonely Lover," though again the material fails her. "I Guess It's a Beautiful Day Today" is most likely bassist Oz Osborne (not Ozzy Osbourne) or guitarist/songwriter Chris Nielsen on vocals, and suddenly the group comes off like a low-key Quicksilver Messenger Service. "Washroom Wonder" and "Nobody's Leavin' Here Tonight" suffer from the guys taking over the lead vocal duties. Jinx Dawson proves it with a great performance of the theme to The Legend of Billy Jack. The hit is so far above the rest of this music in production, arrangement, and vocal presentation that the record label must be taken to task for not giving more care to what could have been a breakthrough disc. The hit single was on Warner Bros. and the group's 1974 Shel Talmy-produced release, Blood on the Snow, found a home on Buddah, so with four labels in five to six years, the Coven never really got the chance to carve out a niche. A pity, as the 45 RPM has all the elements.