Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Kingdom Come - Journey

Kingdom Come

Released 1973 on Polydor
Reviewed by aether, 21/09/2012ce

Kingdom Come – Journey (1972)

Arthur Brown held a particularly dichotomous place in the affections of many late sixties music fans, as seemingly accepted by the radical post-68 ‘psych-punks’ (follower of the Deviants et al.) as he was by the chin-stroking emergent proto-progressive rock fan(s). His single “Fire” was a Dionysian tumult of Doors-like organ and wailing, screaming, beseeching vocal gymnastics. The accompanying LP was equally impressive: a little-acknowledged template for emerging Progressive Rock dynamics as well a skilful merger of psychedelically-driven Dionysian fervour and Apollonian order and design.

Hell (-fire!), the most important thing about The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, however, was that these cats had tunes. And not just tunes, but TUNES! These were great, big, hook-laden pop-tones so powerful that they should’ve wiped out humanity there and then, trans-substantiating the human race into sun-worshipping neo-pagans on the very day of their release. Their 1968, Kit Lambert-produced debut was awash with said fare. Undulating mellotron flutes open up like endless paper puzzles, waspish violins buzz endlessly, Motown bass lines bob and tumble and, above all, holding it all together like some alchemical tincture, the coruscating organ sound of the legendary organ/blacksmith Vincent Crane and the incredible soul singing and Artaud-ian theatrics of Arthur Brown. Nothing was too much for this transitional text that marked the move from psychedelic posturing (and soul influences) to more complex nascent progressive moves.

But it was always going to be a temporary affair. Having two bona-fide English eccentric visionaries in the band was never going to be conducive to a stable line-up, no matter how boring and ordinary Carl Palmer was. Thus, by 1970 Arthur Brown had formed Kingdom Come and was already lighting up the Glastonbury stage with a wipe-out stage show involving a band of be-robed druidic mystics lighting burning crosses, covered in death-mask face paint, and knocking out doom-laden granite-heavy rock grooves in some sort of ritualistic trance. Their 1972 “Journey” LP (the third in a loose conceptual series apparently) was a drum-machine propelled space-glam masterpiece that positively gushed with transcendent energy and light. It shows just how complex you can get your grooves (even with a Bentley Rhythm Ace in charge of the drums) and how space-rock and progressive rock moves need not be a block to great tunesmithery and can be gainfully mixed with soul-revue ecstatic(s) and proto-Glam Rock glam descends.

Side One’s “Time Captives” begins with a 4/4 slow drum machine beat. Although electronic, the tone gives it a curiously pagan feel – like the (slightly) speeded up death-march of the damned familiar to many Third ear band tracks. Bass and deep washes of white noise quiver underneath as the speed picks up. Like a space rock “The Chain,” the beat is joined by wa-guitar and funky-but-ominous sounding synthesiser. Everything goes crazy for a second until it gradually settles down into a great motorik groove, and a hugely base riff of warbling notes of moog and bubbling VSC3. Arthur sings of Time Captains (not captives) “synthesising the rays powering your brain…lone protons [and] cosmos cold socks!” It all sounds so tuneful, however, and is a great beginning to the LP. Slowing and quickening, massive pools of VSC3 and theremin provide a suitably cosmic sound pool, which merges into “Triangles.” This is a slow and incredibly Cluster-like (1974 Cluster that is, in 1972!) twilight stroll, with ploddingly simple drum machine groove and toy-town flickering synthesisers and guitars. Recorded at the end of 1972, this could easy have come off Ralf and Florian or Zuckerzeit. The tune wobbles through a number of increasingly intense key changes before lurching to a stop.

“Gypsy” is another rocker, a stern sounding guitar riff, with mellotron accompaniment, and clanging electric piano. The mellotron creeps in again to accompany probably the best vocal performance of the album, a rather serious lament from Arthur about “all humanity […] reflecting the glow of the New Sun.” Rampant guitar solos are tended to by a cooling balm of mellotron until we are suddenly thrown into a huge galloping tempo. The Bentley sounds like it’s about to explode as windswept mellotron cloud formations power us along, through exploding curlicues of distorted guitar and sinister weeping vocals – reminds me of the Pretty Things’ “Balloon Burning.” Momentarily, a soft mellotron flute is introduced into the manic swaying of the track with deep dark strings and, as if disappearing into some black hole, the song (and the side), finish without even saying goodbye.

Side Two starts of with “Superficial Roadblocks” as a very Atem-sounding Mellotron fanfare salutes us from the distant horizon. The VCS3 hovers in the background as the vocal enters – a spoken recital from Arthur, soon joined by gorgeous Mellotron choir before literally tumbling into a great Glam era descending riff. A staunch Ronson-lesque guitar solo follows until the Mellotron choirs again regain the skies. Gorgeous, ethereal; indeed, its some of the best choral ‘tron this side of Aguirre, joined as it is by rolling timpani. “

“Conception” crawls into earshot fantastically, with a deadbeat dole-queue flanged bass, whilst “Spirit of Joy” is most certainly filled with the spirit of joy! This is a bouncing, bobbing, space-soul party of a tune. Mott the Hoople could’ve probably scored a number one with this monster! Arthur provides a great vocal, possessed of an intense energy, as he lets loose a gaggle of those great screams he does so well.

“Come Alive” is an 8 minute space-prog epic. Clipped bass, fat fizzing synthesiser, and a blues riff that they bring down into the depths, betraying their 60s psych roots, as Arthur riffs on some semi-improvised poetry which he lays over the top. Childlike ‘la-la-la’s’ from Arthur and a great moog solo from Victor Peraino (the unsung hero of this Unsung record), lead un into the tail out, like some curious lullaby it ends in the clattering drum machine and a mega-phased finale of screaming guitar.

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