[Review] Graham Bond: Holy Magick (1970)

Bond’s deepest dive yet into the mystic arts, featuring a magic ritual set to music and songs about The Tarot.

Kronomyth 5.0: Graham Bond’s Dark Force.

Love Is The Law was Evil Bond on a budget. Holy Magick is Evil Bond with a full band. The result sounds like Gong infiltrated by a Satanist cabal or Ginger Baker’s Air Force working for darker forces.

At this stage in his life, Graham Bond was a better candidate for the looney bin than the record bin. I find it amazing that Bond could get a legitimate label (Mercury) and professional musicians (Rick Grech, Alex Dmochowski, Victor Brox) to tag along for his descent into madness. (In an odd twist, Brox appeared that same year as Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar.)

If you can ignore the fact that “Holy Magick Suite” is a Satanic ritual set to music, you might see it as an interesting continuation of Bond’s unique progressive blues/rock/jazz style. But you won’t be able to ignore that fact, because the whole purpose of this music is to usher in a new Age of Aquarius. Bond calls upon the dark angels of light, invokes the Qabalistic cross and perverts pieces of Christian liturgy (the suite closes with Christ’s final words, “It is finished”) in what must constitute some of the most profane music ever committed to vinyl.

Side two features shorter songs that have a connection to the Tarot. “Return of Arthur” deals with Arthurian legend and the prophecy that Arthur will return as England’s savior. “The Magician” is actually something of a love song from Bond to Stewart and is not only the best track on here, but the only one that can be safely excised from the album’s Aquarian theme (that is, it works on two levels). The final two tracks are written by Diane Stewart and, while neither could be considered musically adventurous, they’re not bad, just a bit bland as invocations of evil go.

I remember thinking holy crap the first time I heard this album—not because I was amazed, but because it was quasi-religious crap that, as a Christian, I found naturally offensive. I wish it had been otherwise with Bond; the man was supremely talented, but fundamentally tainted. Unable to separate his music from his mental and spiritual deterioration, I would pronounce Holy Magick one of the most depressing records on record.

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Original LP Version

A1. Holy Magick Suite: Meditation AUMGN / The Qabalistic Cross / The Word of the Aeon / Invocation “To The Light” / The Pentagram Ritual / Qabalistic Cross / Hymn of Praise / 12 Gates To The City / The Holy Words IAO SABAO (These Are The Words) / Aquarius Mantra (In Egyptian) / Enochian (Atlantean) Call / ABRAHADABRA The Word of the AEON / Praise “City of Light” / The Qabalistic Cross. AUMGN. (Graham Bond) (23:47)
B1. Return of Arthur (Graham Bond) (5:04)
B2. The Magician (Graham Bond) (4:02)
B3. The Judgement (Diane Stewart) (4:46)
B4. My Archangel Mikael (Diane Stewart) (4:10)

All selections arranged by Diane Stewart and Graham Bond except B4 arranged by Graham Bond.

The Players

Graham Bond (acoustic and electric alto sax, organ, piano, vocals), Aliki Ashman (vocals), Keith Bailey (drums), Big Pete Bailey (percussion), Annette Brox (vocals), Victor Brox (piano, electric piano, tibetan dhong, pocket cornet, euphonium and vocals), Alex Dmochowski (bass guitar), Rick Gretch (bass guitar), John Gross (tenor sax), Jerry Salisbury (cornet), Kevin Stacey (guitar), Diane Stewart (vocals and gong) with Godfrey McLean (drums on B1/B2/B3), John Morsehead (guitar on B1/B2/B3), Steve York (bass guitar on B4).

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in 1970 in the US (Mercury, SR/MCR4-61327) and in 1971 in Australia (Vertigo, 6360 021) with gatefold cover.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (BGO, BGO LP35) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-packaged with We Put Our Magick On You on 2-for-1 compact disc in 1999 (Beat Goes On).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 2007 in Japan (Vertigo, UICY-93268).
  4. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in the UK (Tapestry, TPT278), limited to 500 copies.

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