Thursday, December 20, 2018

Salem Mass - Witch Burning (1971) [Original US Private Press]

Salem Mass - Witch Burning (1971)
Original Private-Press LP from Caldwell, Idaho
No Label (Salem Mass self-released) SM 101
~ThePoodleBites rip in 96kHz / 24bit FLAC + full high-resolution scans~

This is an absolutely fantastic private press LP from 1971 with some killer progressive/psychedelic jams and great performances. The highlight of this album for me is the keyboard/organ/synthesizer -- wow! I don't think I've ever heard a psych record with such incredible synth solos. This record features one of the earliest Moog synthesizers, the now-famous Minimoog was only introduced to the public in 1971, and its appearance is welcomed as an evolution upon the classic psych rock organ. Salem Mass must've made quite the impressive live performance in these early days: imagine, inside a small town's local bar around 1970, near midnight, the lights turned off except for some red stage strobes, the local band takes the stage, and begin a mesmerizing tour of sound, the Moog creeping then slowly screaming, and the over-driven guitar rattling its retorsion, as the rhythm guides this trip through the depth of a 17th century witch trial.

I previously ripped this album from the Guerssen reissue, but this original pressing sounds far superior. I've included scans of the Guerssen insert here for posterity.

Salem Mass jamming at a local venue
I first discovered this burner from a group of like-minded individuals, who had added it to a acid-induced tipping video. I was captivated by the synthesizer... the guy at those keys really knew how to play! That mid-song solo, which would probably fit well enough on a Herbie Hancock record, convinced me to check out the rest of the album. After I acquired the name of the band from the video's architect I immediately bought the Gear Fab CD, which was a complete and utter disappointment. The music was fantastic, as I had heard it, but the mastering was so bad that it rendered the disc unlistenable. Thus I started the hunt for a better CD, which failed; then I bought the Guerssen LP, which still left much to be desired; so finally I caughed up the dough and got this original LP, and wow! It sounds so much better than anything else available. I believe that you'll think so, too.

To be fair, Witch Burning is by no means early-Sabbath proto-metal as the name might imply, but the band's sound, and especially the Moog, provide a strange kind of darkness that might be familiar to fans of Iron Butterfly or The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. My favorite tracks here are definitely "Witch Burning" and "Bare Tree", which both still find their ways into my playlist quite often, although "My Sweet Jane" is also one of the more powerful numbers, as a man confesses to the fault of one nameless victim ("I'm sorry I did those things to her/She was just a worthless cur"), and "You Can't Run My Life", which launches the group into the realm of Deep Purple.

The existing photos of Salem Mass depict the guitarist Mike Snead wielding both a Gibson Les Paul and SG played through an Acoustic amp. Bassist Matt Wilson appears to use an SG bass and play through a Fender amp. (Thanks Josh R. for the help with identification!) Research done by Vernon Joynson in his book Fuzz, Acid & Flowers notes that keyboardist Jim Klahr used a Minimoog with serial no. 1023, which according to Robert A. Moog was the 23rd one to be manufactured.

Reviewer/collaborator 'AM' for the Acid Archives says "It's nowhere near as dark as the band and album title would imply, though the synth does get pretty creepy now and then." Not dark? Hmm, the lyrics quite literally chronicle the act of burning people to death. Well, now you can be the judge.

Salem Mass live at The Steelworkers' Union Hall in Provo, Utah, 18 March 1972

Salem Mass poster, art drawn by Greg Heberle

  • Jim Klahr – Keyboards
  • Mike Snead – Lead Guitar and vocals
  • Steve Towery – Drums and vocals
  • Matt Wilson – Bass and vocals

  • Track Listing:
    1) "Witch Burning" - 10:29
    2) "My Sweet Jane" - 4:39
    3) "Why" - 2:46
    4) "You Can't Run My Life" - 3:53
    5) "You're Just A Dream" - 3:46
    6) "Bare Tree" - 6:57
    7) "The Drifter" - 3:12

    Vinyl Quality: NM- / VG++
    Dynamic Range: DR 13

    – Audio-Technica AT150MLx Dual Moving-Magnet Cartridge
    – Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB Direct Drive Professional Turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
    – TCC TC-754 RIAA Phono Preamp (new regulated power supply, added LM7812 regulator)
    – Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
    – Adobe Audition CC 2018 (recording)
    – iZotope RX 7 Audio Editor (manual declicking, additional adjustments)
    – Audacity 2.2.2 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
    – Foobar2000 v1.4.1 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

    Salem Mass at 'Pacific Palisades' Auditorium, Vancouver, British Columbia, summer 1971

    Google Drive:
    Enjoy, and please feel free to leave a comment below!


    1. No comments on this killer original 60's psych rarity? I pity the head who hasn't checked this out to at least hear the masterpieces; "Witch Burning" and "Bare Tree"!

    2. I've been visiting music blogs since they began to proliferate back in the 2000s and I continue to do so because every once in a blue moon I stumble across something exceptional and I have got to say, UPVHQ is a perfect example of this:

      - incredibly rare records that I'd never normally come across, coupled with a deep archival knowledge and exceptional quality artwork scans.

      I am a huge fan of Moog, EMS et al analogue synth augmented psych so hearing the Salem Mass album for the first time today was a revelation to say the least -

      As the text suggests, it was very unusual to say the least for an 'ordinary' psych-combo to have access to a Moog this early in the game and for this to be a private press makes it more extraordinary still.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing this, especially allowing us to listen to a rip from the original pressing and I can't wait to dive deeper into this blog and discover what treasures it contains.

      1. Thanks so much for the kindness & for taking the time to write this comment man, it's this kind of feedback that inspires me to keep me going. Sending good vibes & keep on rockin'!

    3. Outstanding! Keep up the great work, it's much appreciated. Thanks!

    4. This is HEAVY, Wtich Burning is blowing my mind.
      Bless you for this restoration!

      -Michael Mirror

    5. Thank you for this absolute gem of a record. Fantastic sound, too. I really appreciate everything you do here. Thanks again and all the best.

    6. Thanks for this very complete work,

      My favourites are the title-track and "You can't run my life", the theme of "Bare tree" is famous but a great part of moog solo sounds fake !

      All the best.