Kingdom Come (1973, 44.40/62.02) ****½/T½
A Scientific Experiment Featuring "Lower Colonic Irrigation"
Love is (the Spirit That Will Never Die)
Traffic Light Song
Traffic Light Song
Journey (1973, 42.14/62.33) ****½/TTTTT
Spirit of Joy
Arthur Brown is one of those incredibly talented artists who had a brief burst of fame many years ago, and has effectively had to live off it ever since. Arthur's is, of course, Fire, recorded with his Crazy World in 1968; you'll probably have seen the insane b+w promo video for it with Arthur's flaming headpiece. There was much more to Arthur Brown than Fire, though. In the early '70s he put together Kingdom Come, to play a weird, twisted form of progressive rock quite unlike anyone else. Their first album, Galactic Zoo Dossier (****) is good, but they improved upon it with Kingdom Come.
This is definitely one of the oddest prog albums you'll ever hear, with Arthur expounding on school, religion, his bodily functions etc., mostly at some length. The music takes no prisoners, either, with some wonderfully dissonant organ passages in the brilliantly-titled A Scientific Experiment Featuring "Lower Colonic Irrigation", among other highlights. The Mellotron isn't mentioned specifically, but is presumably played by Goodge Harris, with strings slapped all over The Hymn, an otherwise (relatively) straightforward number, and a few chords in Water, but not really enough to consider it a 'Mellotron album'.
Journey, however, is another matter. Arthur only retained the services of his guitarist and bassist, bringing in American keyboard man Victor Peraino, and electing to use the Bentley drum machine, actually a Bentley Rhythm Ace, later to give its name to a British dance-orientated act. The music is (slightly) less odd than on Kingdom Come, but makes up for it with its weird, mechanical feel, and the large amount of Peraino's Mellotron present. There's nothing on the first two tracks, but Gypsy is smothered in strings and flutes, before Superficial Roadblocks roars in with brass and choir providing the main chordal backdrop. This track has to be one of the most Mellotron-heavy ever, with an unaccompanied choir section on Corpora Supercelestia. Spirit Of Joy features that rarest of M400 sounds, the Mellotron Hammond (along with some strings), only distinguishable when Peraino attempts some organ 'chops'.
Peraino went on to front his own version of Kingdom Come, producing another Mellotron Monster in No Man's Land, but try as he might, he couldn't quite reach the heights of lunacy reached by either of these albums. The last I heard, these were both still available on bizarrely-packaged Voiceprint CDs, with loads of unlisted bonus tracks, and Arthur's story in the booklets, but told in the wrong order... Still, it's just good to actually be able to find them at all, and hopefully introduce another generation of listeners to the hidden delights of these strange albums. Barking mad, brilliant and wholeheartedly recommended musically. Oh, and Journey's a Mellotron classic. Buy.
Chisholm in My Bosom (1977, 43.57) ***/TTNeed To Know
Let a Little Sunshine (Into Your Life)
I Put a Spell on You
She's on My Mind
The Lord is My Saviour
Chisholm in My Bosom
Requiem (1982, 39.52/59.18) ***/½
Spirits Take Flight
The Fire Ant and the Cockroaches
Tear Down the Wall
Santa Put a Spell on Me
After the dissolution of Arthur's Kingdom Come, he slid into a sadly rather lacklustre solo career, with two albums on the long-defunct Gull label, '75's Dance (**½) and '77's Chisholm in My Bosom. Both albums hark back in some ways to Arthur's '60s apprenticeship, with blues, soul and funk influences abounding; a far cry from the fascinating experimentation of his previous band. This is the sort of mediocre mid-'70s 'rock' that kick-started a revolution; so bland that it almost doesn't exist, you can't imagine anyone getting especially excited about this music, although I suppose there's no accounting for taste.
In fairness, Chisholm isn't all bad, with a slow-burning blues take on Screaming Jay Hawkins' I Put A Spell On You and some nice guitar work on She's On My Mind, although far too much of the album is thoroughly average fare. Its one real saving grace is its title track; Imagine Dylan writing a deranged post-prog side-long piece and getting a decent singer in and you won't be too far off the mark, although it all ends rather inconclusively. Superb. It's also the only track where anyone (then-Strawb Robert Kirby?) plays Mellotron (unless that's flutes I can hear on I Put A Spell On You?), with background choirs and a flute part appearing almost immediately, strings cropping up later on, all three sounds reiterating with regularity throughout the piece. Actually, it's entirely possible that more than one of the album's four credited keyboard players provide the 'Tron work on this track, but despite the fact that I've met Arthur more than once, I suspect it would be fairly pointless to ask him if he remembers. So; a rather ropey album saved by a really good side-long piece.
Incidentally, given UK reissue specialists See for Miles' horrendously edited version of the album on a 2-on-1 with Dance, I originally had a good rant about such bowdlerisations, preserved below.
|"To add insult to injury, See for Miles' 2-on-1 reissue, pairing the album with Dance, slashes the 23-minute Chisholm In My Bosom to a mere eight minutes in order to fit both albums onto one disc. Useless. These abbreviated 2-on-1s are a particular pet hate of mine; OK, so you get to hear most of two albums for the price of one CD, but what's the use in that? What if the missing track(s) is/are the album's best (as in this case), but get edited/deleted because some jobsworth compiler decides that they're inessential? (See: the Fruupp reissues). Every now and again, an artist's history is correctly preserved on two-disc sets (see: Druid), but mangled versions of albums like this do no-one any favours, least of all the artist concerned. Grrr".|
Several years later, Arthur used a Mellotron for the last time on album, on his 1982 release, Requiem. Arthur's one of those artists who seems to fit in musically with whatever's going on at the time, viz psych (late '60s), prog (early '70s) and middling rock (mid-late '70s), so it shouldn't come as any surprise to learn that Requiem seems to have been recorded mostly on synth/sequencer and drum machine, with real drums in places. As with many early-'80s 'synth' albums, there's plenty of sonic experimentation here on the keyboard front, with some great ring-modulated sounds (Prophet 5?) and other out-there but up-to-the-minute stuff, although I'm not so sure about the material, which seems to be average at best. Credited Mellotron on the title track from Sterling Smith, although the only sound that even might qualify is possible choirs subsumed in the massed backing vocals, although if you didn't know they were there, you, er, wouldn't know they were there. Overall, then, an interesting, if flawed album of synth-pop without the 'pop' bit, but essentially bugger-all 'Tron.
So; two rather ordinary albums, sad to say, as I have huge respect for Arthur, even if he's actually only ever released a handful of decent records. Try to get to hear Chisholm in My Bosom's title track, if only for its Mellotron usage.
Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 24th April 1973 (82.29) ***½/TTT½
We Want Your Brain
City Melody - reprise
Spirit of Joy
Boots from any stage of Arthur Brown's career aren't the easiest thing to source, so a listenable recording of the mighty Kingdom Come from Manchester in 1973 is absolute gold dust. Touring Journey, the band used the legendary Bentley Rhythm Ace (controlled by Arthur and referred to in a contemporaneous interview as 'Bentley Ace') instead of a drummer, giving a weird, machine-like vibe to the proceedings, accentuated by Victor Peraino's VCS3/ARP 2600 madness and the overall nuttiness that seems to follow Arthur wherever he goes. And to think that we only have the vaguest idea what's happening visually...
This two-disc set shows just what a weird proposition KC were, both at the time and subsequently, to the point where I suspect that their show was as good as carried by the visuals, as the music is peculiar, even for the time. Highlights include opener Time Captives, the lengthy Gypsy and Superficial Roadblocks, although several of the shorter tracks come across as a little formless in their non-visually-enhanced form. The only genuinely unnecessary thing here is the plodding jam (with a real drummer) that winds things up, all assuming it's actually the same band; it has none of KC's unique identifiers (Arthur's voice, Peraino's synths), so it could actually be anyone and possibly is.
Peraino gets the Mellotron in on over half the tracks here, albeit not always for very long, with 'violined' strings on Conception, more 'standard' chordal parts on We Want Your Brain and Come Alive and a (relatively) melodic line on Gypsy, amongst other delights. Disc two features full-on string chords on City Melody - Reprise and one of the album's Mellotronic highlights, Superficial Roadblocks, plus flutes on the latter, more strings and flutes on Spirit Of Joy and a brief burst of strings at the end of Irish Potatoes. Given that this is available on download sites, if you've ever liked any of Arthur's work, I urge you to give it a go; odd, but strangely compelling, not to mention some decent Mellotron work.
See: Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come | Klaus Schulze