He’s one of the most original performers in the world – he’s The God Of Hellfire – Arthur Brown.
The founding father of theatrical progressive rock – the movement that influenced Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, and more recently, The Prodigy. Arthur is now more than 70 years old, with over 45 years heavy rocking under his belt. But he is always fresh, energetic and disconcertingly innovative. He has now released “Zim Zam Zim” – a stunning collection of new songs – funded by fans and supporters on the PledgeMusic site. The album features contributions from more than a dozen friends and colleagues – most importantly Jim Mortimore (bass, guitars, percussion & voices) and Sam Walker (drums, percussion, voices & keys.)
‘Zim Zam Zim’ begins with a swirling, juicy sax sound and a booming Dave and Ansell Collins type voice that calls you into the curious world of Arthur Brown with the line: “You’ve got to hold the vision in your heart.” Yes this track sounds like ska. But it also has a ponderous, tribal beat – and some somersaulting, trapezing, horns that stride across the tortured screeches till they reach the inevitable starlight. This is a circus overture all right … for the longest standing ringmaster in the business.
‘Want to Love’ is about a “damaged man”. Arthur’s voice is not too dissimilar to Tom Jones (yes, you better believe it) but the simple tune is spread out like chocolate spread slammed against a pebble-dashed gravel pit of rattling textures. All the while, an elephantine bass beat wallows below. It’s a great piece.
‘Jungle Fever’ is also seasoned and smelly. It’s as fruitfully delicious as slurpily sucking the pips from an over-ripe paw-paw. But this is also an unrefined blues number – with vocals that will make you sit up and listen. The drama and the demonstrative tension is all here. It is a superb number.
‘The Unknown’ is probably the first single from ‘Zim Zam Zim’. It sounds like a classic cabaret song. You can almost imagine a shady jazz singer pacing the boards in some Bohemian back-street brothel of the 1930’s. It’s a take on the madness of modern life with some magnificent bar-room piano and tumescent accompaniments.
After ‘Muscle of Love’ with its jingling bells and ding-a-ling percussion, we arrive at the jumble-full ‘Junkyard King’. The vocals are almost spoken here, and the bass hums like mammoth blow-flies infesting the dangerous wastelands within our souls.
‘Light Your Light’ is one of the more progressive tracks on the album. A sweet ballad, it is silky and lean. It ripples gently against dreamy synth sounds and eloquent rhythms. ‘Touched By All’ has a biscuity crust created by piano – with Arthur’s elegant voice enunciating clearly against the water-colour washes. The background reminded us of Tubular Bells. This is another side to Arthur Brown – a poetic celebration … and the listener is reminded that he is always ready to feed our senses.
The album ends with ‘The Formless Depths’ – with its foreboding bass beat and itching percussion. The voice is angrier here … more whiskery. This is a warning song. We have arrived at the crucial moment when the world may well pivot into chaos, agony and possible human extinction. Yes, the screams of the night are drawing closer and closer … and soon we will not be able to escape “The final twisting joke…”
A momentous album. And a collection that will delight the young and the not-so-young. Go grab it. And enter the crazy world.
– © Neil_Mach January 20134 –