24 Nov 2011

Phantom's Divine Comedy - Part 1 - Obscure Classics

Great albums you may have missed

Phantom's Divine Comedy - Part 1 ( 1974 )

This is an interesting album that has been the subject of much debate over the years. It's hard to separate the fact from the fiction, but the story appears to go as follows. Three years after the death of the Door's Jim Morrison this album appeared on Capitol Records - apparently after the Door's label Elektra had tried to suppress it's release. The vocalist who called himself Arthur Pendragon at this time - obviously a pseudonym, bore an uncanny vocal resemblance to a certain Jim Morrison. A Jim Morrison that a large number of grieving fans had convinced themselves was still alive and well and living in Paris having chosen to abandon the life of a rock star to work on his poetry and deal with his addiction issues. Several song titles seem to purposefully evoke earlier Door's works ( Calm Before The Storm, Stand Beside My Fire ).
With the benefit of hindsight it seems hopelessly naive to think that people could assume this album would be the work of Jim Morrison but at the time social networking and the like were not even a twinkle in a programmer's eye so fans only had hazy news reports of Morrison's death to go on. The romance of the conspiracy theory was always going to win a few people over here. 
As it turns out Capitol signed them due to the fact that they sounded so much like the Doors, and let word of mouth do the rest. Arthur Pendragon turned out to be one Tom Carson ( not Iggy Pop as some decided once they'd worked out it wasn't Jim ), and the album turned out to have more in common with Black Sabbath than the Doors.
Based mainly on Arthurian legend ( King Arthur's family name was Pendragon ) the lyrics are enjoyably preposterous occult mysticism ( Spiders will Dance on my Face indeed ) - and more Ronnie James Dio than Jim Morrison.
Highlights include opener Tales from a Wizard, which is a hard rock monster with a guitar solo for goat throwers everywhere.

Devil's Child has a funky piano / bass riff reminiscent of some of the Soft Parade's more cartoonish, experimental moments.
Calm Before the Storm builds nicely and has Carson sounding his most Morrisonish.

Fans of the Doors need to check this out of course, but fans of occult rockers like Black Widow and White Witch and other devotees of seventies hard rock will also find much to enjoy here - with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

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