Week of September 3, 2000

John Schroeder "Witchi Tai Too"

Witchi Tai Too - LP Pye, NSPL 18362, UK, 1971
Witchi Tai Too - CD Victor, VICP 61440, Japan, 2001

"Witchi Tai Too", just as the notes on the back of the sleeve suggest, is not just another nice 70s pop record, it's an experience. Those who shared in this experience, besides John, are such famous session luminaries of the time as Clem Cattini (Mike Batt, Bee Gees, Joe Cocker, Cliff Richard, Roy Harper, Albert Lee, Chris Spedding), Mike Morgan, Alan Parker (Blue Mink), Alan Hawkshaw (Cliff Richard, Shadows, Chris Spedding, Dave Kelly, Madeline Bell), et. al.  And of course this album is of a very special value to all fans and lovers of Uriah Heep, for it was their original vocalist David Byron who sang lead vocals on all the tracks that had lyrics, including, of course, the title track.

Thus, "Witchi Tai Too" is also a very clever mixture of instrumentals and songs featuring lead (and sometimes only background) vocals, containing mostly originals but also at least a couple of covers, including The Beatles' renowned "Back in the U.S.S.R." - a completely different reworking compared to the original version!!

The orchestral arrangements on this album were handled by Lew Warburton and of course John himself - well renowned for his flawlessly produced "easy listening" albums (featuring plenty of horns and Hammond organ) of the late 60s/early 70s, very much in the same style as the James Last Orchestra (John's other very important claim to fame was the fact that he was the manager of The Status Quo, as they were called back in the late 60s/early 70s, during their formative years spent with the seminal Pye label).

Alex Gitlin
August 2000

Background info on John Schroeder:

Arranger/conductor/producer Schroeder does have a few pop/rock credentials: he wrote a number one U.K. hit for British singer Helen Shapiro ("Walkin' Back to Happiness") in the early '60s, made the first licensing deal for Motown product on British shores, and formed Sounds Orchestral, which had a Top Ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1965 with "Cast Your Fate to the Wind." To the current space-age pop crowd, however, he's known as one of the chief exponents of what the British call "easy" - recordings, mostly instrumental, which welded easy-listening pop arrangements to soul, rock, and psychedelic source material. At the time, naturally, it was critically ignored, as his work was really aimed at creating background music for those who found the original versions way too intense to handle. In the mid-90s, of course, it's all the rage in London clubs, where his blaring horn charts and pumping Hammond organs provide - um - suitable background music for those looking for the cutting edge in retro sounds. Placed in the home CD unit rather than the dance floor, it tends to sound rather trivial, if occasionally possessed of an inspired oddball charm. The demand is there, though (maybe for the first time), which paved the way for the reissue of some of his recordings decades after they made a beeline for the cutout bin.

Richie Unterberger
Taken from www.allmusic.com - the All Music Guide on the internet

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