Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Sir Lord Baltimore - Kingdom Come

Sir Lord Baltimore
Kingdom Come

AOTM #27, August 2002ce
Released 1970 on Mercury

Kingdom Come gatefold – origin of the One Eye illustration featured on Unsung and on the CD of Odin by Julian Cope

Side One
  1. Master Heartache
  2. Hard Rain Fallin’
  3. Lady of Fire
  4. Lake Isle of Innisfree
  5. Pumped Up
Side Two
  1. Kingdom Come
  2. I Gotta Woman
  3. Hellhound
  4. Helium Head
  5. Ain’t Got Hung On You

I originally reviewed this album on the 13th March 2000ce. As Unsung regulars will know Sir Lord Baltimore’s one-off barbarian ‘classic’ Kingdom Come has long informed the pages of my rock’n’roll writing and my Brain Donor trip as well as the pages and pages of Unsung’s review sections. Indeed, I appropriated Kingdom Come’s gatefold inner illustration of the one-eyed Odin for both my album of the same name and as the motif on Unsung’s front page. Yet Kingdom Come has itself never been an official Album of the Month here, and it occurred to me that y’all need to actually hear it.
Of course, my album reviews were formerly short affairs and so it is with this ‘un. But it’s the summer and you all wanna be out in the streets fucking and dancing. So instead of re-jigging it – here ‘tis unadulterated (well… except for a bit of minor tinkering)

John Garner AKA ‘The Garn’. Like Speed, Glue & Shinki’s Joey Smith, Garner’s drumming and singing outmanoeuvred allcomers by seamlessly synchronising his vocal histrionics into impenetrable drum patterns

In 1969, three longhairs from Brooklyn, New York, were thrown off the stage of Bill Graham's Fillmore East, for being what that now legendary promoter described as 'Pus'. The trio was Sir Lord Baltimore and they'd just recorded a flawed but fantastic first album, called Kingdom Come, which combined thee most histrionic proto-Kiss, proto-David Lee Roth vocal acrobatics ever with enough Stooged-out proto-metal to last any sane band a lifetime. Did you ever wish that 'Speed King', 'Highway Star' and 'Fireball' were the only songs Deep Purple had ever recorded? Did you ever feel that everything Blue Cheer recorded after side one of OutsideInside was unnecessary, including side two of that very LP? Did you ever lament that telling people just how much you love 'I'm on Fire' and 'Atomic Punk' from Van Halen 1 inevitably made them think you secretly loved later sub-Genesis detritus such as 'Jump' as well? Well, search out this album and you've got everything you need in one record.

What does it sound like? Well, I'll tell y'all. The music gets 10 out of 10, but the vocals get 100 out of 10. From the opening notes of 'Master Heartache', it's clear that Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons AND Patti Smith were at every Long Island gig they ever played. From the mouth of John Garner, such simple lyrics as 'I know' become more spiritually uplifting than Handel's Messiah (I'd actually be scared to hear John Garner sing 'I know that my redeemer liveth' - I'd probably be in church within the hour).
On 'Hard Rain Fallin'', the fuzzball riffing is marvy, Harvey, but again obliterated by John Garner's impossibly strident and braying delivery. By the time we get to 'Lady of Fire', it's revealed to us that Van Halen was formed specifically because of this song. No doubts. When you first hear Garner scream 'Fire', you feel like every 999 call in the world is coming to your aid, and your aid alone. It's more than magnificent - it's truly life affirming. Whilst Richie Blackmore nicked the middle of ‘Lady of Fire’ for Purple’s ‘Woman from Tokyo’, Ian Gillan even copped the laugh in the last verse for the end of 'Speed King'. Yup, it's just so brimming over with proto-everything.

Louis Dambra’s Jeff Beckian good looks and lost guitar hooks make him a true axe victim

What are the lyrics to 'Lady of Fire' about? Well, Garner's unable to sleep, takes a walk, meets a prossie who tells him that no man can do it for her, including him. Garner tries and is so fab that she crawls after him forever and will bed no other thereafter. Crap macho bollocks? Not when John Garner tells the tale, it isn't. In fact, it's suddenly a whale of a tale and he's Moby Dick!

So why did Bill Graham kick them off stage all those years ago? Was it the controversial lyrical stance? Was it the Garn’s overwrought macho singing style? No, I don’t believe so. And brain dead bluster was a common enough lyrical style in ‘69/’70 for no fucker to have given a damn. No, it was probably that they were simply a pile of living shit when it came to playing on stage. For a start, John Garner was a singing drummer. This in itself is almost a crime against rock unless you’re the greatest genius that ever roamed the planet – and even Iggy had to put down his drumsticks before he became the Pop we know and love. If you are a singing drummer, you can wield enormous power and slow songs up in really unlikely places, then hang ‘em up for hours while you growl through particularly meaningful bits, like Joey Smith did so successfully with Speed, Glue & Shinki. But John Garner and Joey Smith are still the only two I know who got it right, and Bill Graham’s Fillmore antics kinda proves Sir Lud weren’t the live force they were on record.

Gary Justin’s big teeth undermined the awesomeness of his bass playing

The other possible negative aspect of Sir Lud Live woulda been the formidable assault course of multi-tracking which Louis Dambra put his guitar through. We ain’t exactly talking guitar-bass-drums on this record. Brother Louis builds it and builds it so intricately that the original guitar is almost un-locate-able under the sheer weight of otherness. By the second LP, he’d even got his kid brother in to do some supporting licks. Indeed, it was surely Louis Dambra’s collection of riff-upon-riff-upon-riff-upon-riff which gave this album its stupendous drive. Even the Misunderstood or the Page’n’Beck Yardbirds never managed the sustained sonic assault which Dambra attains on this Eddie Kramer-produced throbfest.

I could write 20,000 words about this one album (and probably will one day), but for now you must know (or rather 'Knowwwwurghhhh!') that there was a time around 1969/1970 when Sir Lord Baltimore managed to fuse the Stooges' primeval 'TV Eye' free-rock with Van Halen's version of 'You Really Got Me' and Blue Cheer's 'Come & Get It' without missing a beat. Besides, who had titles like 'Helium Head' in 1970? Sir Lord Baltimore did. And while you're trying to figure out the morass of amphetamine soup they called 'Pumped Up', they pull the musical rug from under you and leave Louis Dambra's bucking bronco guitar rearing alone and uncontrolled. No drum and bass. Nothing.

The album isn't perfect, but it’s short. Indeed, it’s exactly the same length as the first four Van Halen albums were: 17 minutes per side. Excellent. Yes, there's a terrible acoustic song on side one and I even used to think that the title track itself sucked big logs. But really, it just as good as the rest, just more painful and strung out and more of everything. So, M’Luds, Ladies and Gentlemen, I here present you an album of sublime rock'n'roll – excruciatingly and gratingly sublime, and that's a fact.

On the 17th of May the same year, I added this disappointed addendum to the Sir Lord
Baltimore story:

Sir Lord Baltimore, their eponymous 2nd album, was an inglorious drywank. Beware.

Sir Lord Baltimore Released 1971 on Mercury.
Reviewed by Julian Cope 17/05/2000ce.

BEWARE OF Sir Lord Baltimore by Sir Lord Baltimore

Drudes, a couple of months ago I hipped you to a very special album called Kingdom Come by Sir Lord Baltimore and asked if anyone could find their second and final LP called simply Sir Lord Baltimore. Well I got one two weeks ago and, aaaaaaah! It's a fucking pile of sub-prog underachievement of international proportions. John Garner's superb finger-up-the-ass enema-whine is here reduced to the back of the mix and the cross-rhythm post-Blue Cheer have been straightened out to meet Deep Purple's ultimate Friday afternoon. I'm talking disappointment, fuck I'm crying guys.

The album opens with a yawnathon called 'Man from Manhattan' that never gets off the ground and sounds like the 3rd Flash album. 11 minutes of cheap deodorant with no pay-off about Jesus and how people can play mean games on others. Oh, sentimental artholes. The rest of the album is midtempo brain rot without one iota of stamina. They're just brown-nosing the blues until the last two tracks, which shine like a firefly's ass in the compost heap. 'Woman Tamer' and 'Caesar 71' at least see the Garn back in his boss hoss saddle, and it gives the LP the chance to end with some dignity. But, even then, they're no great shakes, vocally as subdued as Joe Strummer’s voice when Pearlmanised for the second Clash LP. And hell, wouldn't it have been better if that song had been called 'Man Tame, Woman Tamer'?

NB In showing lost and unsung delights, I'm gonna have to occasionally alert you to, and warn you off, certain underachieving phlegm by previously cool groups. Otherwise, some of you will get the wrong Love LP by mistake and listen to side 2 of Da Capo and wonder what planet I'm on. The end of 's.t.a.r.c.a.r.' on Autogeddon includes a sample of the opening of Deep Purple's song 'Fireball'. But that does not mean I suddenly love it all – it’s just that I grew up with the Deep Purple in Rock-period stuff and still believe it's 50% great. Unfortunately, the other 50% is macho-white-funk micro-bollocks. I'm not a heavy rock advocate - I'm a shamanic detective in a panic defective.