ARTHUR BROWN: THE VOICE OF LOVE (2007)
1) Love Is The Spirit; 2) Gypsies; 3) Kites; 4) I Believe In You; 5) That's How Strong My Love Is; 6) The Voice Of Love; 7) All The Bells; 8) Shining Bright; 9) Birds Of A Feather; 10) Devil's Grip; 11) Safe Now &... .
First thing to be noticed about Brown's latest studio venture is that it is now credited not to the crazy, but to «The Amazing World Of Arthur Brown». Sure enough, modesty and humility were never an integral part of this guy's artistic image, but there is still an even bigger contradiction here, because The Voice Of Love is, in fact, arguably the most modest and humble album ever released by the God of H.F.
On here, Arthur returns back to the acoustic environment of Tantric Lover: he is accompanied by much-talented, little-known multi-instrumentalist Nick Pynn, proclaimed by Brown to «play every string instrument on the planet» or something to that effect — however, the choice of instrumentation is generally quite simple: about 70% guitars, and the rest divided between violins, mandolins, harps, whatever... nothing too exotic as far as my ear can tell. Furthermore, about a half of the songs are recycled from the past — be it very recent past, such as ʽAll The Bellsʼ and ʽVoice Of Loveʼ from Tantric Lover, much older past, such as yet another rearrangement of ʽLove Is The Spiritʼ, or pre-deluvial past, such as ʽDevil's Gripʼ, which was the very first single put out by Crazy World in 1967. In addition, there is a cover of Hal Hackady's ʽKitesʼ, a song first turned into a hit by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound (the original Shulman brothers band before the emergence of the most awesome Gentle Giant) also around 1967. Sweet, sentimental, a bit tangoish compared to the original, and — nostalgic, of course.
Yes, the whole album is drowned in nostalgia this time. Most of the tracks, formally, are ballads: Arthur pouring his soul out to tasteful arrangements of romantic-natured songs, all firmly rooted in mid-1960s and early-1970s R&B (yet another cover is the old Otis Redding chestnut ʽThat's How Strong My Love Isʼ, which Arthur approaches here like a master archaeologist would approach a freshly unearthed relics — almost literally dusting off and professionally polishing each syllable, with such great love and respect for the object that the care shown in his singing ends up more lovable than the cover itself). True enough, there is very little «craziness» here, at least not until ʽDevil's Gripʼ comes along at the end of the album and shakes us up a little bit with some of the old maniacal frenzy (yet there is only so much maniacal frenzy one can conjure with just a couple acoustic guitar tracks and some screeching violin passages. Say what you will, electricity does matter when it comes to these matters). But still, it would have been more honest to call themselves «The Shadow World Of Arthur Brown» at this juncture.
Of the new stuff, meticulously mixed with the oldies and thoughtfully levelled with them in style, ʽGypsiesʼ is probably the standout track — make sure you neither confound it with ʽGypsy Escapeʼ off Galactic Zoo Dossier or with ʽGypsyʼ off Journey; yes, Arthur doth love the word — if only because it deviates from the general «love is the spirit» standard and digs into a darker, Mid-Easternish, violin-dominated pattern, before picking up speed, fury, and frenzy and leading us to a climactic conclusion (by the way, Arthur's screampower has not decreased in awesomeness one small bit — at this time in his life, he can probably do better than Ian Gillan, which just goes to show that you never really know your luck until you hit sixty).
Generally, though, there are no standouts. For you and your grandmother, this is a wonderful pretext to simply lower some barriers and bask in the excellence of Brown's intonations, modulations and manifestations. This is still theater, replete with exaggerations and mannerisms, but a very stripped down, life-like, and meaningful sort of theater — and maybe quite a turn-off for the adventurous fans of Kingdom Come and the Requiem era, or even those who got a minor kick from the absurdist minor extravagance of Vampire Suite. Personally, I tend to favor Arthur Brown, the evil clown, not the paternalist-sentimental one — but at this time in his life, he might actually be doing better as the latter rather than the former. A pleased, if not too excited thumbs up — and [obligatory old fart addendum] needless to say, Voice Of Love still shows more genuine soul than any given starry-eyed indie market record from 2007.
Check "The Voice Of Love" (MP3) on Amazon