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Saturday, 3 September 2016
THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN – STRANGELANDS (Swordfish Records LP).
You could consider this record to be the missing link between the original Crazy World and Arthur Brown's strange but beautiful Prog Rock outfit Kingdom Come. Originally recorded in 1969 as the follow up LP to the massively popular The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown debut album, Strangelands was the mythical “lost” Arthur Brown album before Reckless Records finally made this album available with a 1989 release. Although Cherry Red reissued the album on CD a few years ago, thanks to the good folk at Swordfish Records this……..erm……“idiosyncratic” LP is now available on vinyl for the for the first time in over 25 years. Strangelands is pretty fucking far out……………..Track Records were no doubt expecting more of the same radio friendly fare that the first album provided but instead of variations of ‘Fire’ and ‘Nightmare’ they were presented with an album that took ‘Spontaneous Apple Creation’ way, way out there to the nth degree……………..Brown was no longer weird in an accessible and entertaining fashion, he was just weird. Completely “uncommercial”, Strangelands is a truly Psychedelic record in the sense that what no doubt recorded with everybody involved off their faces on LSD and mixes the dissonance of Beefheart with Free Jazz and Psychedelic Rock and could be loosely described as Arthur’s very own Trout Mask Replica. Track Records rejected the album out of hand, anyway they had bigger fish to fry with Track label mates The Who and Hendrix being at the peak of their commercial powers (we wish that Track had shown the same rigorous “quality control” when it came to releasing Keith Moon’s atrocious booze and coke fuelled solo album Two Sides Of The Moon, a record with no redeeming qualities whatsoever). Maybe if Brown had been signed to a label that wasn’t run by a hardnosed East End hipster and a drug addled posh boy dilettante that wanted hit singles, but to one more receptive to underground sounds who would have given the record a more sympathetic ear, then this tripped out album could have hit the racks 20 years earlier and freaked out everybody who bought the first LP.
Time has been kind to Strangelands, now it reverberates with the spirit of the age as well as encompassing an almost contemporary feel. Had it been released by Track Records right after it was recorded, it would have confused many listeners who would have been alarmed by the radical change of direction………….us Brits didn’t really do seriously weird in the 60’s. However with time “strange” has been absorbed more into pop culture and the abrasive discord of Strangelands has been eroded over the years, it’s still a difficult album but 45 years on and decades of hearing off the wall experimental records it’s much easier to get your head round than it would have been in 1969……..nevertheless that does not detract the fact that this chaotic album is mainly full of untuneful and demented stuff and it is fully understandable that Track Records gave it a listen then decided that it would have been commercial suicide to put it out. Strangelands is loosely arranged as a suite divided into four parts (‘The Country’, ‘The City’, ‘The Cosmos’ and ‘The Afterlife’) and is the sound of a band not just burning musical bridges but dynamiting them to……err…….kingdom come. It's much heavier on the operatic vocal histrionics and unfathomably metaphysical lyrics, with few of the R&B-grounded organ riffs that helped put his debut album into the Top Ten but with plenty of improvisation. The one song that sounds as if it could have, almost, fit onto the first Crazy World album is ‘Planets of the Universe’ with its drifting organ lines and lilting, melodious vocals…………. although these unexpectedly cut into a busk of ‘Dem Bones’. Overall this record is a strange, sprawling, messy affair but an interesting look at an important transformational period and an indication of the direction Arthur Brown was to take in the early 70s. This is not going to be for everybody…………..anyone thinking of dipping into the oeuvre of Arthur Brown for the first time best give Strangelands a wide berth but for hardcore fans who want this on vinyl and lovers of seriously out there 60s/70s Prog Psych this will be will be well up your street.
Strangelands is the first release in a series of vinyl re-issues of early Arthur Brown albums by Swordfish Records. Following this, the three Kingdom Come albums are getting a vinyl re-issue…….Galactic Zoo Dossier is planned for release in the next few months and the other two due to land early next year. A limited edition release of 500 copies on psychedelic vinyl with fully remastered audio and with all-new cover artwork conjuring up the look of what it should have had if it had been issued in 1969 as originally planned, Strangeland will be available to buy sometime in October (we think) direct from very groovy record stores that have a well stocked Psych section, from the Swordfish Records eBay site here http://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/swordfishrecords or directly from the shop if you live around the West Midlands area. Pre-release copies can be ordered from the usual reputable on-line outlets like Juno Records and Shiny Beast………..best give the album a Google to see who else is carrying it (other tax avoiding search engine companies are available).