Entry for August 19, 2005

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The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown

Polydor 833-736-2 TK

Tracks: Prelude–Nightmare/Fanfare–Fire Poem/Fire (S) /Come & Buy/Time/Confusion/I Put A Spell On You/Spontaneous Apple Creation/Rest Cure/Money/Child Of My Kingdom

CDAdditions: Prelude–Nightmare/Fanfare–Fire Poem/Fire (S) /Come & Buy/Time/Confusion (mono versions) (58:01)

Released: 1968. Chart peak  #7 (US).

Personnel: Arthur Brown (voc), Vincent Crane (kybd), Drachen Theaker (dr).Producer: Kit Lambert Associate Producer: Pete Townshend.

* Eye-opening debut album by the Godfather of theatrical rock–if not Hellfire itself. Following “Fire”‘s chart success, band implodes, later to spawn Atomic Rooster and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

The international success of “Fire” in 1968, and the colorful performance style of its lead vocalist–“colorful” being a massive understatement considering that we’re discussing a man prone to wearing flaming headdresses–has tended to obscure the actual quality of the album which contains it. Regardless of which version one purchased–mono or the superior stereo, both mixes available on the same 1991 CD reissue–one was getting close to a fully-formed conceptual suite, unusually advanced stuff for its time, with nary a tad of sonic filler.

While Brown’s partial stylistic forefather was clearly coffin-crawler Screaming Jay Hawkins, whose “I Put A Spell On You” gets fitting contextual treatment herein, one could also hear a trace of Tom Jones-style nightclub yelping–which, when combined with organist Vincent Crane’s superb arrangements and melodic beds, offered a distinctly different pop take than the norm.  Brown’s basic shtick borrowed from all the best sources: colorful showmanship, Hawkins and James Brown covers, and , always a laugh, subject matter generally alternating between hell and insanity. Though this band would implode well before it really deserved to–Crane and touring drummer Carl Palmer went off to form the markedly inferior Atomic Rooster, and Brown’s eventual follow-up Kingdom Come sorely lacked Crane’s vital input–it at least left a classic album in its wake.

On a personal note, I am reminded of the one occasion I saw The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown in performance, at a 1968 pop festival in Miami. My 15-year-old eyes opened widely in amazement as the lanky Brown, with microphone in hand, climbed the stage scaffolding as his band madly riffed below him, unzipped his pants, then proudly declared: “I give you Americans…(significant pause)…my cock!” Fourteen years and at least two art-rock bands later, the newly-recruited drummer who’d been onstage at that moment laughed at the memory. “I didn’t see him actually expose himself,” said Carl Palmer, “but he did it quite a lot.”  One can only hope Brown wasn’t singing “Come And Buy” on those various occasions.

Further listening:  Galactic Zoo Dossier (Kingdom Come album, 1972), Atomic Rooster (Atomic Rooster album, 1970)

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