After The Crazy World split, Arthur Brown put together the similarly theatrical group Kingdom Come in 1970. The group’s 1971 debut album Galactic Zoo Dossier was recently reissued by the people at Esoteric, who now follow up with the two remaining Kingdom Come albums.
The self-titled second album was released in 1972, confusingly credited on the sleeve as a solo album. A lot of the music within is very much of its time, filled with the kind of stoned ‘humour’ that marred many releases of the period. You can’t help feeling that The Mothers of Invention and The Fugs had a lot to answer for. The album is certainly not without its charms though, and there are some really great moments, something like a cross between The Nice and early Gong – the former’s thrilling Hammond workouts juxtaposed over the latter’s exhilarating rhythmic gymnastics… good stuff, but I for one could do without the fart impressions.
A year later, the third and final Kingdom Come album appeared and the contrast couldn’t be more marked. If Kingdom Come was a product of its time, Journey was so far ahead of its time that you have to keep checking the sleeve to make sure that it really does say 1973 and not 1983. Nowhere is this more apparent than on opening track “Time Captives”– imagine the shock of playing this record for the first time in 1973 and being faced with a full minute of minimal drum machine before a one note bass and guitar riff enter and proceed to speed up and slow down while atonal electronics swirl around for a further three minutes. Taken on its own, this opening section could easily be passed off as a lost Cabaret Voltaire or RBE track from a decade later, but this is only one aspect of Journey, and as the name suggests, we are taken on a unique trip that had no obvious precedents at the time. When Brown’s unmistakable voice finally enters to tell us: “Alpha waves compute before eternity began/Lone protons, probing vast galaxies/We seek the void where creation once cried on,” we are thrust into the cosmic vortex that was the domain of Hawkwind or the German kosmische groups at the time – indeed Arthur later performed “Time Captives” live with Hawkwind.
Key to the album is the use throughout of the Bentley Rhythm Ace drum machine, cutting-edge technology at the time and apparently the first time a drum machine was ever used on a rock album. Despite, or more likely because of, the seeming rigidity of this approach, the group show great invention in finding ways of bouncing different counter rhythms off the machine and veering effortlessly between pastoral neo-classical Mellotron passages, harsh electronic musique concrète, Van der Graaf Generator-style prog melodrama and even a commercial pop song in the form of the single “Spirit of Joy.”As the sleeve notes aptly point out, it’s astonishing to think that Journey was recorded at the same time as Dark Side of the Moon, so much more advanced is it than the more well known work.
Esoteric must be applauded for their exemplary reissue programme – in addition to the original album, Journey also comes with a second disc of alternative takes and a John Peel session from the period. Now that this milestone is once more available, maybe it stands a chance of being reassessed not only as Arthur Brown’s masterpiece, but also as one of the truly great albums of the seventies.