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Classic of the Week

March 30, 1995|BUDDY SEIGAL

"The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" (1968)

Polydor

Alarmingly perverse and one heck of a lot of fun, this psychedelic pyromaniac fantasy anticipated the studied depravity of such artists as Alice Cooper and Iggy and the Stooges but remains little more than a curious footnote in rock history.

Singer Brown hit big with the single "Fire," but other songs on this album so far surpass that one's obsessive dementia that they become almost unsettling; they are by turns sadistic and masochistic, hilarious and scary. Brown's voice is punctuated by evil-sounding minor-key organ riffs and a blaring horn section as he imagines himself and others burning in the agonies of hellfire and screeches and screams like a man in real agony and terror. The music seethes like a bad acid trip, both compelling and repelling as it "digs you to burn."

Brown was a flamboyant live performer, appearing onstage in a flaming helmet and war-painted skin and flailing like a spastic on hot coals. Little was heard from him after the release of this album (he did have a memorable cameo in the film "Tommy"), but rumors persist that he is alive and insane, a homeless dreg who walks the streets of Los Angeles talking to himself. This CD reissue includes both mono and stereo versions of the original album's first side.

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