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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Arthur Brown: Chisholm In My Bosom


ARTHUR BROWN: CHISHOLM IN MY BOSOM (1977)

1) Need To Know; 2) Monkey Walk; 3) Let A Little Sunshine (In Your Life); 4) I Put A Spell On You; 5) She's On My Mind; 6) The Lord Is My Saviour; 7) Chisholm In My Bosom.

With musical standards exploded and reassembled from the dust in between 1975 and 1977, Ar­thur Brown had pretty little hope of maintaining even a small pinch of notoriety. Even Kingdom Come, with all of their progressive trappings, were so far out as to be considered «underground» in the early 1970s. Now, with the New Wave revolution in full flight, Arthur's 1% of recognizabi­lity would be reduced to about 0.01% — particularly since he continued to behave as if his own musical evolution were on a completely self-sustainable path, not necessarily ignorant of what­ever comes around, but never for one moment giving reason to suspect that it could be influenced by some particularly current «fad».

So, in 1977, when everything around was changing and adapting, Brown instead made the most «normal» album in his entire catalog. Despite still working with Dalby, and despite old madman friend Vincent Crane returning to guest star on one track, Chisholm In My Bosom continues the line of Dance — upgrading the challenge a little bit by returning to epic length compositions and cutting down on cover versions, but overall, simply coming across as standard-fare «intellectual entertainment» without any serious attempts to break new ground.

In fact, the opening couple of numbers could easily throw the demanding listener into the arms of a hissy fit. ʽNeed To Knowʼ, with its gentle double-tracked slide guitars, sounds like formulaic country-rock, unexpectedly soft, mild, and mannered the same way Lou Reed surprised his fans with Coney Island Baby several years earlier. Not everybody will want to acknowledge that the slide arrangements are quite exquisite and emotional (Andy Dalby's talents on the podium again?), but it's also true that this isn't at all the kind of music that we would readily associate with Brown. The faster-paced R'n'B dance number ʽMonkey Walkʼ is a little more familiar, giving us Brown's sexy, rambunctious side, and the band plays very well, including the brass arrangements and the back vocals, but where ʽNeed To Knowʼ could be seen as too blatantly sentimental, ʽMonkey Walkʼ might just be a bit too generic and silly.

The rest of Side A wanders between Brown's newly-shaped passion for gospel (ʽThe Lord Is My Saviourʼ), epic optimistic R'n'B (ʽLet A Little Sunshineʼ), and dark funk (ʽShe's On My Mindʼ — the only track here to contain a shred of the old madness, maybe due to the participation of old friend Crane). There is also a re-recording of ʽI Put A Spell On Youʼ for those who'd for­gotten he already did it a decade earlier — slower, less freak-out-ish, more keyboard-dependent, and quite unnecessary in the long run.

Then there is the second side of the album, given over in its entirety to the title track — which, rather than trying to play out like a multi-part progressive suite, sounds like a cross between a Bob Dylan epic, a Van Morrison epic, and a Jim Morrison epic: a long, wordy ramble spread ac­ross several relatively simple melodies with relatively simple acoustic / keyboard-heavy (Mello­tron included) arrangements. Much of it sounds (but not necessarily is) improvised, and quite per­sonal — sort of a lengthy, multi-layered confession that must have meant a lot to the guy in 1977, but is hardly the kind of item we should be expected to enjoy thirty years on. Or maybe I just don't get it, but anyone can be excused for not trying very hard to «get» a twenty-minute acoustic / Mellotron epic from Arthur Brown written in 1977, provided it is not really out there to get you itself. It's certainly no ʽSad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlandsʼ, anyway — neither the instruments nor Brown's vocalizations are enough to strike out the necessary amount of magic to carry it on for such a long time period.

Overall, the record is quite far from a crying disaster, as it has been characterized by the very few people who still managed to hear it (or not to hear it), but it neither has the unique weirdness of Kingdom Come nor the occasionally brilliant hook of Dance (not a single highlight of the ʽQuiet­ly With Tactʼ variety). Hence, coming from the likes of Arthur Brown, it is not easily made clear why the hell it even exists. Each and every one of these tracks, in its respective genre, could have been better coming from someone else.

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