When surveying the elder statesmen of Rock, the usual suspects repeatedly appear Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Ozzy Osbourne. While two of those earned their notoriety just as much for hedonistic escapades of bacchanalia, their prodigious contributions to modern music cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, though, other impactful artists with comparatively illustrious careers are left out. Enter Arthur Brown.
Arthur Brown is a lifer. Born in ’42, he just celebrated his eightieth birthday at the end of June. Beginning his career with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and later Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come, his impact lay beyond simply the periphery. Rather, he shared bills with heavy hitters such as The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and Frank Zappa. His 1968 single, “Fire,” was his largest splash with a number one spot in the UK and number seven in the U.S. He would thereafter be known as “The God of Hellfire”.
Brown has now reemerged with a new LP fittingly titled Long Long Road. For those who have never been exposed to the phenomenon of Arthur Brown, this is an excellent start. In fact, when listening to it, the album exists outside of time with its holistic, consuming narrative.
The album opens with “Gas Tanks”. A truly combustible subject for The God of Hellfire, this flammable topic serves well to ignite the ensuing record. While the music is far from “heavy,” it is seriously engrossing with its deep-rooted cinematic style. The blazing B3 organ tone serves to stoke the flames. As Brown sings, “better fill those gas tanks, here we come”.
The third track, “Going Down,” is another highlight with its bluesy swagger. By this point in the album, the listener is yet deeper enthralled with the pyromantic pathos of Brown. The vibrating hum of low notes blown by cadencing saxophones serves to amplify the effect, as do the not-so-random keys hit by the whiny organ.
At this point, the intrinsic allure of the music should be described. This is beyond simply a Rock album. This is a full-blown spectacle. A complete band compliments Arthur Brown propelling his musical phrases to new heights. The quality of the accompaniment cannot be understated for it rivals the finest recordings and conveys a measure of polish long absent from modern albums.
Yet another high point on Long Long Road includes the fifth track, “I Like Games”. An air of humid invitation is presented with a seductive, Blues-influenced slide guitar riff leading the proceedings. When the bass drum kicks in, the intensity markedly increases. The drunken shuffle soon subsides to lead into the next track, “Shiny Brightness,” a lounge-inspired, lizard-like romp. It was impossible not to be reminded of the Twin Peaks soundtrack when listening to this, and of course, anytime David Lynch is referenced, the subject matter is thus prolific.
Prolific indeed. Arthur Brown should be celebrated. To think of the reach of his influence is truly mind-boggling. Ubiquitously, his pioneering antics shaped the future of music. From Shock Rock to Glam to Black Metal, all corners of the Rock world owe him a debt of gratitude.
Long Long Road is an experience. It is an album made like the greats of yesteryears with expert musicianship and compelling dalliances into far corners of subject matter. They certainly do not make albums like this anymore, but thankfully, Arthur Brown still does!