SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Arthur Brown: Dance, Expanded and Remastered CD Edition


As soon as I hear Arthurs name I cannot escape smiling. When I first went to work in London in 1968 I made what would become a lifelong friend who worked at Track Records in Soho. Over the following years I was in and out of the office in Soho on many occasions. Track’s main artistes were The Who and Jimi Hendrix and then there was Arthur….I was privileged to hear the tracks he recorded, before they were released, for what became the album ‘The Crazy World of Artur Brown’ and the unsuccessful single ‘Devils Grip’ which still remains a personal favourite to this day. The album contained the record that is synonymous with Arthur, which is of course ‘Fire’ and will live on as his legacy forever. A large majority of people never looked past that era and this strange apparition who regularly set fire to his hair! For those that stuck with Arthur, many happy and bizarre experiences on vinyl were to come and reward them with some of probably the most eclectic music ever heard. After the implosion of ‘The Crazy World’ in 1969 Arthur worked with a variety of musicians that made up his Kingdom Come band which released 3 albums of wildly experimental music starting with 1971’s ‘Galactic Zoo Disaster’ and ending in 1973 with ‘Journey’. Arthur intended the 3 albums to form an arc starting with the present state of humankind, moving through the human animal itself and exploring body and mind and concluding with  focussing on the cosmic and spiritual matters that affect us. The avant-garde nature of these albums won him many new admirers and an equal number who thought it was, well…rubbish. If you’ve listened to the albums you will have made up your own mind. Musically they were notable for the prominent use of synthesisers, Mellotron & that strange instrument the Theremin. Kingdom Come never officially disbanded they just sort of withered gradually away, dogged by a combination of the ongoing disdain shown towards them by the music press and poor sales making them commercially unviable. After a couple of years had gone by Arthur returned in 1975 with the subject of this review, his solo album ‘Dance’. This new release by Esoteric Records presents the album remastered (very well) and on top of the original 11 tracks they have included an additional 6 bonus tracks recorded for a BBC Radio 1 ‘In Concert’ recorded in April 1975 to promote it’s original release. In typical Arthur style its gestation was, as ever, with him, a bizarre set of circumstances. He decided to make what was basically a ‘World Music’ album, before that even became a term. The idea was to gather dance styles from around the world and commit the results to vinyl. With this idea in his head Arthur approached none other than Stevie Wonder (backstage at a London concert) to produce it. After the 2 guys held hands in silence for several minutes Stevie agreed to produce. Then Arthur trotted off to Steve Winwoods house in search of a keyboard player…as you would naturally! Steve also agreed to appear on the proposed record. Full of enthusiasm Arthur returned to his record label (Gull Records) in high excitement to announce his success. Unfortunately, as was often the case in his career, Arthur had overlooked some pertinent details, such as the fact that Gull Records were a small label with limited resources and the 2 Stevie’s came with rather large price tags!…..Undeterred, the album still went ahead, albeit in a somewhat less grandiose manner with the help of a bunch of musicians including ex members of ‘The Crazy World’ and Kingdom Come. Depending on your point of view the result was 11 disparate tracks that are either together a glorious mess or simply just glorious….I’m in the latter camp for my sins. From the opening track with Arthur covering The Animals ‘Weve Gotta Get Outta This Place’ set to a heavy disco beat! it’s a wild ride through a mix of tracks covering the marvellous dramatic mid tempo ballad that is ‘Helen With The Sun’ where Arthurs extraordinary vocal prowess soars as only he can & which he contrasts with soft spoken tones. And it is that unique voice that towers above whatever genre Arthur chooses to turn to & on Dance that varies from disco to rock, soul, reggae & synth pop. The albums title track ‘Dance’ is i think quite majestic in the way in which it builds. It’s also a reminder of where Bruce Dickinson adopted his vocal style from (by Bruce’s own admission). Following on from ‘Dance’ is Arthur’s cover of The Stones/Chris Farlowe classic track ‘Out Of Time’ which I don’t think works as well as The Animals cover, but is certainly interesting, i love the horns on it and it bears fruit with repeated listens. The original album comes to a close with track 11 ‘Is There Nothing Beyond God’ a strangely hypnotic composition which boils down to really just a 2 & a half minute repetitive chant. The aforementioned bonus tracks follow & demonstrate what I & anyone else that has seen Arthur perform live can attest to, he can really cut it with that God given voice…or should that be the ‘God of Hellfire’ voice!…This new package comes in a digipack complete with an informative and, for me, highly amusing booklet, setting out the story of the album. Now here’s the man himself…Enjoy.

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Til next time…..take care & stay safe…Colin


Mick O’Dowd… Saw him at The Pilot Field when he was still fairly unknown(to me anyway). Give Him A Flower!

Colin Bell… Remember it well, some girls randomly painted flowers all over my face!

Pete Prescott… Fascinating!

Alan Esdaile… Yes his group Kingdom Come wasn’t to everyone’s taste but I got the compilation album ‘The Lost Ears’ and has some great tracks and also loved his performances on Hastings Pier.

Mick Mepham… What a star he is. Saw him several times in the 70s and more recently at the A New Day Festival in Kent. He still has most of his amazing vocal range and still performs brilliantly. His bands have always been great too. His more recent albums are excellent too, Tantric Lover, Magic Hat and the others with various musicians. Most famous performers have that “something” that identifies them. His voice is unmistakeable as are his songs and writing style. One in a million imho. Pardon the over-the-top praise but he’s a huge influence in my life.

Colin Bell… Hi Mick, good to hear from you, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Mick Mepham… Clive Richardson and I both think very highly of young Arthur. I think the tickets on the pier were 50p. Now THAT’S value…

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