This 'Story Of' puts Brown's early albums in perspective, but sometimes (all together...
Rob Fawcett 2003
Arthur Brown is synonymous with his 1968 hit "Fire", and the Hammond-driven "Crazy World" line-up which spawned it. However, his 'God of Hellfire' burned out fast and, in 1970, he returned with a new project: prog-festival freak-show Kingdom Come. They made three astonishing albums for Polydor, then fell apart without achieving any commercial breakthrough.
Those initial four band albums, by 'The Crazy World of Arthur Brown' and by 'Kingdom Come', are thrilling, as tend to be Brown's cameos on other peoples' projects. Obviously a great collaborator, his solo work has often been impressively poor. Without a persona, a theme, or other characters to play against in the creative process he seems to lose conviction.
To the credit of this collection, it's a goldmine of immaculately mastered rarities. Inevitably, some of these tracks prove to have deserved their obscurity. There are half a dozen pre-fame recordings which posterity could thrive without. Ditto the majority of solo tracks. But, to be fair, this set claims to be The Story Of not a Best Of. A collection of Arthur Brown's best work would discretely set aside year upon year of aimlessness and stick to the period when he found his muse.
Aside from Crazy World... tracks (which are better heard in the context of the classic original album), the heart of this offering is the selection of guest vocals, oddities, and tracks from currently-deleted Kingdom Come albums. There is ''The Lord Doesn't Want You'' salvaged from an aborted 1969 Crazy World follow up, offering stunning declamatory funkadelia. There are eight (so few?) faultless Kingdom Come tracks, including rare single ''Eternal Messenger''. Then there is nutter-vs-God-of-Hellfire action from Rob Calvert's "The Gremlin", heading a clutch of collaborative gems. Sadly the provenance of some tracks is left vague by the album notes.
This is currently your only option if you have Crazy World Of... and are longing to hear what came after. However the label do plan to make the three Kingdom Come albums available again on CD in October. This Story Of puts Brown's early albums in perspective, but sometimes (all together now) too much perspective...