ARTHUR BROWN: ORDER FROM CHAOS: LIVE 1993 (1993)
1) When You Open The Door; 2) When You Open The Door Pt. 2; 3) King Of England; 4) Juices Of Love; 5) Nightmare; 6) Fire Poem; 7) Fire; 8) Come And Buy; 9) Pick It Up; 10) Mandela; 11) Time Captives; 12) I Put A Spell On You.
Mr. Brown hit fifty in 1991, not a particularly bad year for music — and I have no idea if his decision to reactivate his motor was due to the fact that he sensed fashions changing and maybe even a renewed demand for his kind of music in the air, or if he just woke up one morning with a nagging sense of having wasted a decade of his life on «Nothing Much». Whatever be, the early 1990s saw the man returning, if not to creating new music, then at least to reliving the old one — obviously, he was not much of a stadium seller, but all the small elitist clubs could have him, particularly if he came with a guarantee of craziness.
This live album, released on the small Voiceprint label, captures Arthur during one of these shows, at the Marquee Club in London, June 25, 1993 — apparently, one day after his fifty-second anniversary, since birthday announcements are made several times and ʽHappy Birthdayʼ rips out of the blue at one point during an instrumental jam section. Judging by the atmosphere, it was a pretty fun birthday, considering that he hadn't played live in England for something like a decade and a half — and certainly more fun than one year later, when he passed out on stage in the middle of a brain haemorrhage, which led to a six-month hospital stay and brought the whole «live revival» thing to an abrupt stop. A temporary one, of course: «The God Of Hellfire» would never let himself be brought down by such a trivial thing as a cerebrovascular accident.
Brown's touring band consists mainly of unknowns here: the playing is fine enough (Jeff Danford does a particularly respectable job of filling in for the late Vincent Crane on all the classic numbers), but the chief emphasis is on the show (either the whole thing or parts of it were supposedly filmed as well, and available on Youtube for all those who like seeing aging glam-art-rock stars doing crazy stuff on stage) and Arthur's persona — predictably enough. The setlist, as can be easily seen, is heavily tilted towards Crazy World, since, by 1993, if anybody vaguely remembered anything about Arthur Brown, it all had to be tied to the 1969 album, and the God of Hellfire obliged — coming up with solid recreations of ʽNightmareʼ, ʽFireʼ, ʽCome And Buyʼ, and, of course, ʽI Put A Spell On Youʼ.
But he does go further than that, and in a much less predictable fashion. Kingdom Come is paid tribute with ʽTime Captivesʼ (actually a medley here, with ʽSpirit Of Joyʼ thrown in the middle as well), and Arthur's early 1980s synthesizer experiments are honored with bits from ʽThe Fire Antʼ (incorporated inside ʽMandelaʼ), while ʽKing Of Englandʼ gets a more guitar-oriented rearrangement than it had on Speak No Tech (not necessarily becoming more interesting in the process). And then there is some new material, including the opening two-part suite ʽWhen You Open The Doorʼ, also written and performed much in the style of Kingdom Come. Was it a shelved outtake or something?
Overall, the impression is positive. The worst possible impression from such things is that of a desperate old wreck, cashing in on fossilized bits and pieces of former success, out of time, out of mind, and very transparently out of money. But here, even without the video, it is clear that the man is nimble, agile, and still feeling quite cozy in his «Supernatural Shoes»: neither the voice nor the spirit have aged a bit (actually, Arthur has got quite an advantage here: like Ian Anderson, he was intentionally downplaying his youthfulness in his prime, looking and sounding about twenty years older than he actually was, and this paid off handsomely in the long run — he never had the Mick Jagger problem weighing on his shoulders).
The new numbers on their own may not give enough of an incentive to rush out and grab the album: ʽWhen You Open The Doorʼ is strictly for major fans of Kingdom Come; ʽJuices Of Loveʼ is an artsified R'n'B number that is neither too stupendous nor too memorable; and ʽPick It Upʼ is a somewhat formulaic blues-rock shuffle that is a bit too heavy on synthesizers for my taste. But they fit in well with the golden oldies, and the resulting mix is quite a faithful and sympathetic portrait of Arthur Brown at fifty-two. Too bad that Requiem is underrepresented, of course, but honoring the short memories and limited knowledge of Marquee Club audiences was an understandable priority, I guess, so thumbs up all the same.