It seems incredible that 54 years have passed since Arthur Brown’s painted face loomed on the nation’s TV sets proclaiming, ‘I am the God of Hellfire!’ as he launched
into Fire, his first (and only) chart-topping hit. Perhaps more incredible is that Brown’s multi-octave voice, wild imagination and rebellious spirit is barely dimmed by age on this album recorded with multi-instrumentalist collaborator Rik Patten to be released on Arthur’s 80th birthday in June.
Before prog there was progressive rock; a genre-trouncing touchstone here along with Brown’s blues roots, innate psychedelia and electronically garnished links that have laced his work since the Crazy World and notably enhanced the concepts charging his groundbreaking Kingdom Come in the early 70s.
But it could almost be 1968 again as Gas Tanks thunders in on Vincent Crane-style organ swirls, Brown consummating the album’s timeless quality with his trademark shrieks (tempered by Tull-like baroque flute mid-section), his operatic voice in fine fettle. As Alice Cooper’s prime influence, Brown can still shock too, introducing funereal link Coffin Confessions with the immortal line, ‘Come out of that toilet with your hands up and put down that bag of crisps’, ending up cackling and choking in his final wooden resting place. The psychedelic blues peppering the album rears up
on the dense chords of Going Down, booting an original prog blueprint into 2022 with subtle tweaks, squalling saxes and monstrous swagger.
Segued into a suite, the album emerges as searing statement for modern times rather than hellfire nostalgia romp, going hallucinogenic gutbucket on The Blues And Messing Round or on I Like Games mingling slide guitar with Mellotron. The two-part Once I Had Illusions is ostensibly a Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child rework, with Brown declaring, ‘Sometimes I feel like there’s no blood in my veins’ and pondering chillingly, ‘I wonder what will become of me?’
Yet, flying upbeat optimism, Shining Brightly melds jazzy loungecore lope and twinkling vibraphone textures with strident guitars, while Long Long Road’s title ballad finds Brown in reflective mood over Mellotron acoustic textures, insisting he has no retirement plans yet as he repeats ‘It’s been a long, long road/The further we come, the further we go/The future is still unwritten.’
Rather than marking any kind of farewell, Long Long Road instead opens the door to the final phase of Arthur Brown’s inspirationally uncompromising career. Raise a glass to one of music’s true greats.
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