Wicked Witch, aka Rick Simms, was Washington DC’s answer to Prince in the late Seventies/early Eighties. Simms is a multi-talented musician who has been recording and releasing his own material since 1978. Chaos 1978-82 contains seven tracks, including two remixes, all exhibiting the distinct talents of Wicked Witch.
“Fancy Dancer,” which was recorded in 1985, kicks things off in high style. It is a roiling groove somewhere out of the depths of Miles Davis’ Pangaea, updated for the electro-funk era. Simms plays everything on this track, and it is definitely one of the highlights of the collection. The sticker on the front of this CD describes the music as “machine-funk” and I would agree with the statement for this track especially.
“Erratic Behaviour” was recorded in 1983 and displays a strong Funkadelic influence. “Wars of Armageddon” from Maggot Brain specifically, which is certainly as good an influence as any. “X-Rated” was the B side to this 1983 single, released on his own Infinity Records. “X-Rated” shows a pronounced Funkadelic influence as well. It could be an outtake from their final LP, The Electric Spanking of War Babies (1981).
“Vera’s Back” is a tour de force, clocking in at 12:02. It was recorded in 1978 by Paradiagm, Simms’ six piece fusion outfit at the time. It sounds very 1978 fusion to be honest, with some confusing outer-space spoken word business about “Vera” coming back. An interesting period piece to be sure.
Two versions of “Electric War” round out the seven tracks, and it really is not Wicked Witch’s finest song. I prefer the instrumental version with prominent Bootsy Collins’ style bass poppin’, to the tortured vocal version. “Electric War” was recorded in 1984, which was a strange year for music, despite the huge hits of Springsteen and Prince. I think Wicked Witch were searching for “their” sound at the time. The final song on this collection, a previously unreleased remix of “Fancy Dancer” shows them finding their groove in glorious fashion.
Wicked Witch was probably a sensation in DC back in the day, I wasn’t there to know. But listening to these tracks gives the uninitiated a glimpse of a truly individual talent.