Friday, 29 May 2020

Eric Burdon








The albums covered here are:-

Eric Is Here (1967)
Winds Of Change (1967)
The Twain Shall Meet (1968)
and Every One Of Us (1968)

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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ERIC IS HERE (1967)

1. In The Night
2. Mama Told Me Not To Come                  
3. I Think It's Going To Rain Today
4. This Side Of Goodbye
5. That Ain’t Where It’s At
6. True Love (Comes Only Once In A Lifetime)          
7. Help Me Girl
8. Wait Till Next Year
9. Losin’ Control
10. It’s Not Easy
11. The Biggest Bundle Of Them All
12. It’s Been A Long Time Comin’


Recorded in September 1966 and released in March 1967, this was credited as “Eric Burdon & The Animals”, but in reality it was Burdon backed by a big band, led by Horace Ott, who had co-written Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. The album veered far more towards brassy soul than the psychedelia that the next few albums would possess. It is very a much a bridging album between the r’n’b/blues of The Animals' first albums and the more adventurous, experimental psychedelic/hippy-influenced material that would follow. There is a poppiness to it, particularly in its second half that renders it a little bit inessential, although pleasant enough. The first half is much better.

In The Night is a very Chris Farlowe-esque number, one that is very representative of bluesy soul from the 1966-67 period. The subsequently much-covered Randy Newman song Mama Told Me Not To Come (notably by Tom Jones) is performed in a muscular, Van Morrison & Them style, with a keyboard riff dominating. A similar keyboard introduces the slow I Think It's Going To Rain Today, another Randy Newman song later covered by UB40 on their debut album. Burdon's version is very sixties brassy soul in style with that definite Stax/Volt influence, horns everywhere and big fatback drums too.

  

Gerry Goffin & Carole King's This Side Of Goodbye is also punchy and horn-driven while That Ain’t Where It’s At again has echoes of Van Morrison’s sound at the time, with its loose, brassy vibe. True Love (Comes Only Once In A Lifetime) is a slow pace Tom Jones/Chris Farlowe number. The backing vocals that sound like children is a bit of a clumsy interjection. Help Me Girl is very typical of the time, swinging, groovy, but soulful and Motown-ish at the same time.

Wait Till Next Year finds Burdon singing in character as a disaffected Geordie with a gruff regional accent. It is not one of the album’s better tracks. Losin’ Control is a heavily orchestrated but catchy song with a view bits of proggy strings here and there. It’s Not Easy is a poppy number. The strangely-titled The Biggest Bundle Of Them All is a frothy piece of Farlowe-esque, brassy pop. It reminds me of Farlowe’s cover of The StonesRide On Baby. The bluesy It’s Been A Long Time Comin’ is a return to the blues that runs through Burdon’s veins.

It is a bit of a strange album really - not fully blues, not fully pop, not yet psychedelic. Sort of typical of 1966-early 67’s music, I guess.






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WINDS OF CHANGE (1967)

1. Winds Of Change
2. Poem By The Sea
3. Paint It Black
4. The Black Plague
5. Yes I Am Experienced                        
6. San Franciscan Nights
7. Man - Woman
8. Hotel Hell
9. Good Times
10. Anything
11. It's All Meat


After the soul and big band brass sounds of Eric Is Here, this is the album, from later in 1967 (September) is the one that saw Eric Burdon go the same way as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and pretty much everyone else - he went hippy/Eastern/psychedelic and it was far-out, man. As on the next two albums, only drummer Barry Jenkins remained from the original Animals.

Winds Of Change was an aptly-titled opener as those so very 1967 Eastern vibes - sitars and druggy vocals - dominated. Burdon sings about the blues over a decidedly non-bluesy backing. He name-checks many legends as the guitar swirls all around, along with whistling wind sounds. Poem By The Sea is evocative but very predictable - its slow, brooding hippiness is exactly what one would have expected. It morphs into a cover of The Stones' Paint It Black that takes the song's Eastern influences to the max. Some have criticised it, but I like it. It is full of drugged-up verve, vitality and mystery. Burdon's improvised, bluesy vocals add to the song's appeal.

Late sixties music often liked to use a bit of monastic music as backing, and it happens here on the eerie, spoken-vocal The Black Plague. Imitation monks moan their chant and Burdon narrates his medieval-inspired tale of pestilence. It is very evocative, but possibly not something you would want to listen to over and over. It ends with a minute or so of spoken narrative with no music - all very prog rock/folky. Some haunting music returns to finally end the track.

 

Yes I Am Experienced is an "answer" to Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced question (although that album had not been released yet). It is an (obviously) Hendrix-influenced guitar-drive rock groove. San Franciscan Nights is a quirky piece of bluesy rock (at the beginning at least) before it changes into a hippy-influenced paean to the city's hippy pleasures. Man - Woman is a tabla-backed spoken example of 1967 indulgence that, despite, its obvious pretensions, carries a bizarre appeal along with it and some great guitar interjections too.

Hotel Hell has a sumptuous, deep bass line, some Mexican-ish guitars and brass, together with a sonorous Doors-style vocal and lots of druggy vibes. Good Times is a catchy, Stones-circa 1966 type of number. It could be from Aftermath. The "posh voice" end bit is so typical of the era - The Stones, The Small Faces, The Kinks all liked a bit of that. The slow ballad Anything has some Walker Brothers-style string orchestration and the album ends on an upbeat note with the Ravi Shankar and Eric Clapton name-checking It's All Meat. It was an album very much of its time, but not without its attractions.

** For some inexplicable reason, the excellent psychedelic, autobiographical rock of When I Was Young was left off the album. Also a good track is the muscular, buzzy rock of Gratefully Dead.



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THE TWAIN SHALL MEET (1968)

1. Monterey
2. Just The Thought
3. Closer To The Truth
4. No Self Pity
5. Orange And Red Beams                      
6. Sky Pilot
7. We Love You Lil
8. All Is One


This album, from May 1968, saw Eric Burdon going all psychedelic in a brave attempt to diversify from The Animals’ traditional r’nb’ blues rock sound. It is a beguiling, interesting album but personally, and I may be in a minority here, I prefer its follow up from four months later.

Monterey is a really enjoyable, catchy piece of hippy pop, name-checking The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, The Who, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, "His Majesty Prince Jones" (Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones) and Hugh Masekela (before a great trumpet blast from I'm not sure who, not the man himself), this is followed up by some deliciously dreamy sixties fare in the gentle strains of Just The Thought. The former track of the two definitely sounds more 1971 than 1968.

Closer Than The Truth is an earthy serving of psych-blues featuring that mid-late sixties rudimentary stereo panning from speaker to speaker and No Self Pity delivers some stark philosophy against a bleak drum and Eastern-style guitar (maybe a sitar?) backing. There is something Jagger-esque about Burdon's vocal on this one. Orange And Red Beams is a morose, overbearing harpsichord-driven track with some Beatles-esque brass in there. All very typical of late 1967 when it was recorded.

  

Sky Pilot is sort of psychedelic folk, with a Thin Lizzy-type tale of heroic soldiers and a Small Faces-influenced vibe to it. The backing is very fuzzy and representative of its era. After some bagpipes and sound effects in the middle, we then get a second part of the song that is more melodic, with some brass interjections and a fine bass sound.

We Love You Lil starts with the air from Lilli Marlene and progresses into a guitar-driven instrumental with lots of sound effects swirling around meant to sound like gunfire, a bit like Roxy Music did in 1972’s The Bob (Medley). Both of the latter two tracks were distinctly anti-war, which fitted the 1968 zeitgeist perfectly, the first lyrically, the second instrumentally. The bagpipes are back to introduce All Is One before some trance-like, Doors-influenced tabla and sitar join the party, man. Far out, Eric. He had gone all George Harrison, as they all seemed to be doing now. The track’s attack and urgency has something about it, however, as Burdon’s voice sounds a lot like Roger Daltrey. The track ends in frantic Rolling Stones fashion, like Midnight Rambler would do, maybe they had listened to this.

As I said, though, the next album did it for me more. Despite its idiosyncrasies, it had much better sound for a start. That doesn’t mean this one is not without merit. Both these Burdon albums went considerably under the radar, both at the time and since.

I have to thank the esteemed https://markattheflicks.blogspot.com/2020/05/eric-burdon-and-animals-when-i-was.html for turning me on to these albums. 



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EVERY ONE OF US (1968)

1. White Houses
2. Uppers And Downers
3. Serenade To A Sweet Lady                       
4. The Immigrant Lad
5. Year Of The Guru
6. St. James' Infirmary
7. New York 1963 - America 1968

This is an admittedly odd, but strangely appealing album by Eric Burdon (credited now as Eric Burdon & The Animals despite only one original Animal remaining, drummer Barry Jenkins). Also featuring were Vic Briggs, John Weider, Danny McCullough and blueser Zoot Money (credited as George Bruno). The album does its best to rid itself of any blues boom cobwebs and goes American/hippy (in theory) but a reasonable amount of that old instinctive bluesiness crops up every now and again, however. There are some bizarre odd parts on here, though, and they have rendered the album with something of a Marmite reputation. Personally, there is a quirky appeal to it.

The comparatively straightforward White Houses starts in rhythmic style. As it was 1968, tabla percussion is used and Burdon's vocal, both in sound and style, is very psychedelic. There are hints of Traffic's material from the same era. This is shaking off the British r'n'b of The Animals' 64-66 output, big time. As on a lot of this album, it features an impressive lead guitar solo. Uppers And Downers is a brief, twenty second bit of pub singalong jollity as Burdon and his mates drunkenly sing The Grand Old Duke Of York. The mood changes instantly on the beautiful instrumental Serenade To A Sweet Lady, with features John Weider on jazzy electric guitar, Kenny Burrell style. The bass is sumptuously melodic too. Great stuff.

An Immigrant Lad begins as a folk-inspired, Donovan and Dylanesque acoustic, narrative tale of a Geordie lad, blackened by the coal of his home city, travelling to London in search of work (a subject Eric liked to recycle) for three minutes or so and it ends with a few minutes of conversation in a pub between Burdon, playing the part of an intrinsically racist Geordie newcomer to "the smoke" and an unknown cockney, who comes across as far more tolerant, funnily enough. He is willing to live and let live and (possibly reluctantly, but he does it all the same) accept all sorts, whereas Geordie just wants to "gan hyem" as soon as possible, back to real pubs where women are not allowed and the only black-faced people have "come up from the pit, like...". It is actually an interesting social document. The singer of the folk song part is far more sensitive than the pub speaker, they don't really equate as being the same character.

  

The music returns on the contemporaneously-relevant and lyrically cynical Year Of The Guru, an upbeat piece of blues, rock and bar-room piano-driven fun, full of chunky lead guitar, a clappy beat and some bluesy, soulful ad hoc vocals. The much covered blues standard, St. James' Infirmary is done in typical 1968 blues rock style, with a great guitar solo, throbbing bass and a Clapton/Hendrix/Zeppelin feel to it. These two tracks contain the album's bluesiest moments.

The album ends with the mammoth nineteen minute New York 1963 - America 1968, which begins with a six-minute Bob Dylan-style folky narrative about Burdon's experience on first visiting America in 1963. After that we get a lengthy spoken narrative from a black man who trained as a pilot, but found himself still sadly lacking in the most basic of human rights. Eventually his vocal becomes more of a sung one as he improvises an I Feel Free theme. Some grungy, buzzy guitar arrives and he ends by singing that he will never be free. It is a sobering number and not an easy listen unless you are doing something else at the time, but there is something about it that is sort of infectious. Certainly the first "song" part of it is a fine creation. The point made by the song is laudable too, but maybe a few minutes could have been lost towards the end without lessening the power of the point that was being made.

This is actually an album that has worked its way into my system. It is a bold, adventurous and ultimately rewarding piece of work, way ahead of its time in many ways. The sound quality on it is superb too - warm, bassy and delivered in an impressive stereo.



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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

45 RPM Gems - George Harrison - My Sweet Lord (1970)


 

It was November 1970, I was now at Grammar School in Buckinghamshire, hating every minute, but this is one of the records that sticks in my mind from that time giving me more pleasant memories.

George Harrison had now gone full-on devotional in praise of the Hindu deity Krishna, and he also had a point to make about religious tolerance, no matter whatever God you had faith in. Despite its sincere, devout message, it was incredibly catchy and was a huge hit, the first member of The Beatles to go to number one. Notably, it also saw the first appearance of that comparatively unique slide guitar sound that would become inextricably linked to Harrison from then on.



No longer a fresh-faced lad - the quiet Beatle - Harrison was now a proper beardie and the single was completely typical of his whole persona at the time. From its first strummed acoustic notes to that wonderful introductory riff, the track is a blissed-out piece of meditatory but melodic beauty. Harrison's voice is yearning, quiet and honest and the backing vocals infectiously subtle. When the drums kick in it is just inspirational, man. Hearing it still makes me feel almost painfully nostalgic - playing lunchtime football on cold, grey November days with this song in my head.

Many "names" feature on the recording - Phil Spector's wall of sound production, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Badfinger. Once into its groove, the song just carries on as various deities are invoked on an extended Hey Jude-style singalong fade-out.

There has always been serious controversy as to whether the song plagiarised The Chiffons' 1963 hit, He's So Fine. The legal case said Harrison had subconsciously done so. Personally, I could never really hear it myself.

The 'b' side is the dreamy, peaceful and extended rock groove of Isn't It A Pity, on which that guitar sound again dominates. Oasis would blatantly purloin the ending years later, I'm sure, or at least parts of it.



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45 RPM Gems - Mungo Jerry - In The Summertime (1970)


 

One of the all-time classic summer records, this, from hard-as-nails-looking jug band Mungo Jerry. It hit the top of the charts in the summer of 1970. It reminds me of the warm, summery days as I finished primary school.

Mungo Jerry were a stomping pub/jug band fronted by charismatic, heavily-sideburned Ray Dorset. The song is a good-time piece of singalong fun with a cheese-grater/maracas backing, a banjo riff and topped off with Dorset's Marc Bolan-esque vibrato voice.

The song's lyrics contain a couple of dodgy moments that would be seen as unacceptable these days in "have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find..." and "speed along the lane, do a ton or a ton and twenty-five...". Let's hope nobody's coming the other way eh, Ray?



The initial single release was a maxi-single featuring two tracks on the 'b' Side - Mighty Man, which was a kazoo-backed, bluesy tub-thumper of a bar-room number and Dust Pneumonia Blues, an extended, harmonica and piano-driven blues with Dorset trying his best to sound like an eighty year-old black man. It builds up into a right old yee-haw rocker by half way through.

Mungo Jerry had several other hits, all of which were fine, catchy pieces of rocking blues - the leery Baby Jump, the blatant T.Rex steal of Lady Rose, the Slade-influenced Wild Love, Alright Alright Alright, the Status Quo-ish Open Up and the catchy, glammy Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black.



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45 RPM Gems - Peter Sarstedt - Where Do You Go To My Lovely (1969)


 

An unusual one-hit wonder from 1969, this evocative narrative song about a girl from the backstreets of Naples who joins the Parisian jet-set (somehow) and along the way forgets her roots. It is narrated from the point of view of someone who knew her as a child, but has seemingly been forgotten in her indulgent, carefree new life.

It is an acoustic guitar-driven song with occasional bursts of French-style accordion to create that European atmosphere, sung, movingly, by Peter Sarstedt, a Peter Wyngarde/Jason King/Department S lookalike whose Anglo-Indian heritage had bestowed upon him brooding, dark good looks. Many a woman loved that sort of look at the time.



Lyrically is a list of sixties fashionable people and places - Marlene Dietrich, Zizi Jeanmaire, Pierre Balmain, The Rolling Stones, Sacha Distel, the Aga Khan, Picasso, the Sorbonne, the Boulevard St. Michel, St. Moritz, Naples and Juan-Les-Pins. There are also references to an indulgent lifestyle in the sipping of Napoleon brandy and the wearing of a topless swimsuit. One thing that has always bugged me, however, even back from listening to the song as a child, is the fact that the girl is revealed as being called Marie-Claire - a French name, yet she grew up on the "backstreets of Naples...". Maybe she changed her name, but the song doesn't suggest that she did.

The 'b' side is I Am A Cathedral, an acoustic, folky number with somewhat dreamy, dare I say pretentious lyrics. Nothing Sarstedt ever recorded subsequently ever came close to Where Do You Go To My Lovely.

Incidentally, on many of the Sarstedt compilations, the recording of the song that is included is an extended one with two extra verses about speaking Russian and Greek at embassy parties and being between twenty and thirty - "a most desirable age" - also a vastly inferior accordion introduction together with a different vocal. It is not the original single version that everyone knew in 1969 and, in a way, is selling the people who buy those albums short. It is nowhere near as good, despite the extra verses, and furthermore appears to be live as a ripple of applause breaks out at the end. 


















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45 RPM Gems - Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friends (1968)


 

This stunning Beatles cover, from November 1968 brings back, as so many other songs from the era did, memories of seeing it performed on Top Of The Pops. Even at nearly ten years old, as I was then, it totally blew me away. Talking of which, it did the same to Ringo Starr's plaintive but jaunty, laconic original from The Beatles 1967 Sgt Pepper. Cocker came like a hero from the factory floor or the Sheffield steelworks - an ordinary bloke taking a song from the most revered album from the world's most revered band and turning it upside down, inside out and on its head. The song was turned into a proper brooding rock song, over five minutes long, and overflowing with drama and atmosphere. There is a fair case for its being the finest ever cover of a Beatles song. Indeed, when it is performed on talent shows and the like, it is the slowed-down, passionate, soulful Cocker version that is the default, a bit like the way Jimi Hendrix's version of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower is the one people seem to go to.

From the first faded-in organ notes, through the rolling drums, through that piercing guitar, through to the way the bass gently throbs, awaiting the vocalist's arrival, subtly building up the tension to that wonderful moment when Cocker sings "what would you do if I sang out of toon..." - the effect is spine-tingling, even now. Then there is the glory of the female backing vocals and, of course, Cocker's shriek. I remember my friend and I acting it out in the playground - "do you need anybody.....da-da-da-daahh.... WAAAAAAGGGHHH!!....I need someone to love....", competing with each other to produce the best Cocker howl. Great memories.



The recording is also a veritable who's-who of top notch musicians - Jimmy Page on guitar, Chris Stainton (pictured below) on bass (how much quality stuff did he play on, by the way?), Madeline Bell and Patrice Holloway among others on backing vocals, Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson on drums and much-travelled Tommy Eyre on organ.

The 'b' side was the muscular Traffic-like soul/funk of Something's Coming On. This was a track that was typical of Cocker's gritty, grinding soulful rocf from the 1968-1971 period. Check out that superb bass/keyboard/guitar interplay bit in the middle. Great stuff.



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45 RPM Gems - Pickettywitch - The Same Old Feeling (1970)

 

It was early 1970 and I was in my last year in primary school and this song was a big hit for the strangely-named Pickettywitch. The song, from the productive songwriting pens of Tony Macaulay and John MacLeod, had previously been a less successful single for The Fortunes. Their version is ok, but it is the Pickettywitch one that brings back the memories for me. Actually, complicating matters further, it was originally sung by The Foundations. Now that version is a bit of a corker, with completely different words in places (the verses are radically different not the chorus) and a big Northern Soul pounding beat. It is almost a separate song.



Back to Pickettywitch - theirs is a melodic, very typically late sixties/early seventies pop song and the lead vocalist, Polly Brown was a bit of a crush of mine. I loved her on Top Of The Pops, all blonde bouffant hair, cute toothy smile and mini dress. Incidentally, Polly re-appeared in 1974 as part of the duo Sweet Dreams, singing ABBA’s Honey Honey. Ludicrously, she appeared on Top Of The Pops in a black wig and wearing dark face powder to make it appear if she were black. Astonishing.
































The 'b' side to the Pickettywitch version is the pleasant, vaguely funky and groovy sixties-style pop of Maybe We've Been Loving Too Long.



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Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The Archies



ABSOLUTELY THE BEST OF THE ARCHIES

 

Everything's Archie (Archies Theme)/Get On The Line/Bicycles, Roller Skates and You/Bang-Shang-A-Lang/Feelin' So Good (Skooby Doo)/Truck Driver/Melody Hill/Who's Your Baby/Sugar Sugar/Who's Gonna Love Me/Jingle Jangle/Inside-Out Upside-Down/Sugar And Spice/Sunshine/This Is Love/Archies Party

It is very easy to dismiss this album of tracks that appeared on the back of 1969's huge bubblegum hit, Sugar Sugar. After all the group were not real, they were cartoon characters and the music is played by a redoubtable, talented band of session musicians. That is of no matter to me, though. If you like early Beach Boys, The Monkees, The Mamas & The Papas, Tommy Roe's Dizzy, early Jackson 5, The Bay City Rollers, the late seventies power pop of The Rubinoos and early Blondie and summery bubblegum pop in general then this is for you.

I won't analyse every track in detail, they are probably too frothy to particularly justify that, but numbers like Truck Driver, This Is Love with its great bass line and pure Rubinoos vibe and Melody Hill, which has a guitar intro similar to those used by Bruce Springsteen around 1977. Bang Shang A Lang clearly influenced The Bay City Rollers and Feelin' So Good (Skooby Doo) is just a great piece of summer fun that name-checks Mama Cass in the lyrics. Get On The Line has a very late sixties peace and love groove with hints of Tommy Roe's Dizzy. Who's Your Baby has big Jackson 5 influences.

The songs are all driven along by a classic backing of pounding, glammy drums, throbbing bass, guitar, keyboards, female backing vocals and sometimes some Jackson 5-style percussion. Lying sunbathing and playing this on my headphones is a real pleasure.

 

Then, of course, there is Sugar Sugar. This is a song that is inextricably linked with my childhood. It was number one in the late summer to early autumn of 1969, before my final, and most enjoyable, year of primary school. It was, of course, an ideal song for kids and we all absolutely loved it and why the hell not. It was a true bubblegum classic. Nobody, but nobody, is allowed to slag it off in my company. It was a truly glorious piece of frothy, pre-teen summertime pop. The Rubinoos made this sort of material cool in the power pop/new wave era of 1978-1980 and often ended their live shows with the song.

Laugh at me, if you like, for reviewing this. Do I care? Hell no. Once an Archie, always an Archie.




45 RPM Gems - The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown - Fire (1968)


 

"....I am the god of hell fire - and I bring you - FIRE!!!....."

There is only one way to begin this review, isn't there?

A true psychedelic classic from 1968  - I remember as a nine year-old making the same proclamation as Arthur Brown had used to open the song in the playground after seeing Brown perform the song on Top Of The Pops in a flaming headress (which actually burnt his head) - the song is a wonderfully bonkers affair, backed by swirling organ, pounding drums and a bass pedal for that deep, rumbling sound - no bass guitar or lead guitar were used, notably - and embellished by Brown's lunatic, leery, charismatic vocal. It was possibly one of the first genuine psychedelic hits. It also uses some horn and string overdubs to great effect and has a deceptively quiet, dreamy hippy "bridge" in the middle before the demonic, Mephistophilean lunacy returns. It was a delightfully nutty one-off of a single. At nine years old I absolutely loved everything about it. So did many more as it went to number one.

Arthur Brown and his Crazy World were genuine ground-breakers, his maniacal, high-pitched vocal shrieks influence many a subsequent heavy metal hollerer, Vincent Crane's keyboards surely influenced Deep Purple's Jon Lord, Brown's theatrical, gothic get-up undoubtedly inspired a young Alice Cooper (check out that face make-up) and many a prog rock band will have got off on the group's instrumental indulgences and lyrical nonsense.



The 'b' side to Fire was the bassily groovy and gently enjoyable Rest Cure - an appetising serving of psychedelic 1968 on a plate. It is full of organ, bass and infectious drums together with some dreamy strings. I love the warm bass line on it. Brown's vocal is more controlled in places, too. For me, I can hear hints of David Bowie's 1979 Red Sails in the chorus.

The one album the group produced was great too.



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The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown







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THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN (1968)

1. Prelude - Nightmare
2. Fanfare - Fire Poem
3. Fire
4. Come and Buy
5. Time/Confusion
6. I Put A Spell On You                                
7. Spontaneous Apple Creation
8. Rest Cure
9. I've Got Money
10. Child Of My Kingdom


This was the only album released by psychedelic nutcase Arthur Brown and his Crazy World band. Produced by Who producer Kit Lambert, with help from Pete Townshend, it is a superb period piece/curio and also far more influential than many give it credit for. Many progressive rock bands, heavy metal singers and goths will have dipped into it for inspiration. It actually got to number two in the UK album charts.

Arthur Brown was on vocals, Vincent Crane on organ, Drachen Theaker on drums and Nick Greenwood on bass. Session drummer John Marshall filled in on drums on tracks six and ten.

Prelude - Nightmare is a very late sixties piece of psychedelia - all swirling organ, crazy drums and ominous-sounding, sonorous vocals with some proto-heavy metal shrieking from Brown. Ian Gillan no doubt took note, as did Jon Lord to those organ breaks, I'm sure. Together with the next track, they both set the scene for the album's centrepiece. Fanfare - Fire Poem has some unsurprisingly bizarre spoken poetry before it breaks out into a madcap piece of keyboard, drums and bass-powered sixties backing and Brown's equally crazed rantings as he builds up towards the iconic proclamation of "I am the God of hell fire!!!".

A true psychedelic classic from 1968  - I remember as a nine year-old making the same proclamation in the playground after seeing Brown perform the song on Top Of The Pops in a flaming headress (which actually burnt his head) - the song is a wonderfully bonkers affair, backed by organ, drums and a bass pedal for that deep, rumbling sound - no bass guitar or lead guitar, notably - and embellished by Brown's lunatic, leery, charismatic vocal. It was possibly one of the first genuine psychedelic hits. It also uses some horn and string overdubs to great effect and has a deceptively quiet, dreamy hippy "bridge" in the middle before the demonic, Mephistophilean lunacy returns. It was a delightfully nutty one-off of a single. At nine years old I absolutely loved everything about it. So did many more as it went to number one.

 

The bass guitar returns on the atmospheric, brooding Come And Buy, which sees the manic, demonic fires die down a bit on a very Doors-esque - it contains the lyric "funeral pyre", like Light My Fire) - haunting number. Time/Confusion begins in similarly understated fashion, featuring some impressive drums and Confusion is a very Alice Cooper-esque final part. Cooper must have been influenced by this. Brown's high-pitched maniacal voice is back at the end as the organ gets more and more frantic.

So, that was side one - the journey into the fires of hell. Side two began with a psychedelic, organ-driven cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' blues, I Put A Spell On You. The sound is a bit scratchy on this one in contrast to the previous material. Spontaneous Apple Creation is an early example of prog rock - basically a serving of semi-spoken nonsense backed by some indulgent, quasi-classical organ noodling. Despite that, I still like it. "Three million people told butter from Stork..." was a wry reference to a contemporary advertisement for a butter substitute (Stork) which said "you can't tell Stork from butter...".

The 'b' side to Fire was the bassily groovy and gently enjoyable Rest Cure - an appetising serving of 1968 on a plate. It is full of organ, bass and infectious drums together with some dreamy strings. I love the warm bass line on it. Brown's vocal is more controlled in places, too. Arthur then gets the funk on a lively, enthusiastic cover of James Brown's I've Got Money.

Child Of My Kingdom is a sprawling closer with several changes of pace and mood, jazzy piano and prog stylings. You can imagine people like Dave Greenslade being inspired by this. Again, it is very Doors-influenced (or did it influence The Doors?). The band stretch out, instrumentally, on this one and show that they can really play, it was a shame that it all ended here.

All mad as a box of frogs, but very enjoyable. Delightfully so, in fact.



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