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A Haunted Person's Guide To The Witches

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Album Review

It takes a very special artist to collaborate with Flotsam and Jetsam, Killing Joke, the Dirtbombs, and Spiritualized, and Troy Gregory is just that kind of musician. While Gregory has an impressive and eclectic résumé, some of his best work has also been his least appreciated, namely the albums he cut with his band the Witches. A revolving collective of Detroit musicians (members of the Electric Six, Outrageous Cherry, the Sights, the Go, and Larval all played with the group between 1996 and 2007) with Gregory as the leader and principle songwriter, the Witches offered up a deliciously twisted take on classic pop in which the dark throb of the Velvet Underground squares off against various archetypes of mid-‘60s rock & roll (psychedelia, bubblegum, and garage rock) in the midst of a seance. Unfortunately, the Witches' body of recorded work has appeared on small independent labels that have been poorly distributed outside the Midwest, but Alive Natural Sound Records have given their music the second chance it richly deserves with A Haunted Person's Guide to the Witches, a 12-song collection that features representative tracks from the group's four albums as well as a tune from their unreleased debut, Everything Changes Reality, and two unreleased performances. Considering this album was assembled from songs recorded over the space of 11 years, it's a pleasant surprise that A Haunted Person's Guide coheres like a proper album rather than a compilation; the dark echoes, insistent rhythms, dark but tasty melodies, and playfully surreal lyrics are a constant throughout, as are Gregory's rich vocals, passionate with just the right touch of period sneer, and the impressive musicianship from his various accompanists. If this album has a flaw, it's that at just 37 minutes, it leaves out more memorable material from the Witches than it includes, and a 20-song set could have given the band the proper, full-bodied anthology they merit. But as an introduction to a group that deserves a significantly higher profile, A Haunted Person's Guide to the Witches leaves little doubt Gregory and his associates have made some brilliant, idiosyncratic pop music, and if you like your music tuneful, a wee bit creepy, and lots of fun to sing along with, then you and the Witches were made for one another, and this album will show you why in concise, convincing fashion.

Customer Reviews

great intro to a great band

if you're thinking of checking out The Witches and haven't, this is a great place to start.

Psych- and garage-inflected Detroit rock nods to the ‘60s and ‘70s

Troy Gregory (Killing Joke, Dirtbombs) formed the Witches in Detroit in the mid-90s, and over the course of a decade this loose aggregation, including fellow Michiganders John Nash and Jim Diamond, produced the five little-known psych-inflected rock albums sampled here. The opening guitar riff of “Everyone the Greatest” suggests Paul Revere and the Raiders before the rhythm section add a heavier bottom end and the vocal shades to a 1960s drone. Gregory’s songs have the hooks of garage and rock bands that broke through to AM radio in the ‘60s and ‘70s, tipping their hat to the Byrds and Flamin’ Groovies with “Lost With the Real Gone,” Love with “Sprit World Rising,” and T-Rex with bass-and-handclap rhythm of “Down on Ugly Street.” In contrast to fashion-plate revivalists, the Witches showcase an amalgamation and evolution of their influences that keeps these tuneful echoes fresh. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]


Formed: Detroit, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Merging hooky, '60s-influenced pop with pounding drums and moody, ominous undercurrents, the Witches suggest the bastard spawn of Phil Spector and the Velvet Underground -- a sound and style that might surprise some people, given the early résumé of the group's leader, Troy Gregory. Born in Detroit, Gregory first gained national prominence when he joined Arizona thrash-metalists Flotsam & Jetsam as bassist in 1987, a year after Jason Newsted left the group to join Metallica. In 1991, Gregory left...
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A Haunted Person's Guide To The Witches, The Witches
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