Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Phantom's Divine Comedy
Albums like "Phantom's Divine Comedy Part 1" always arouse suspicion in me. They seem to be the result of some shrewd record exec's desire to cash in on some trend rather than a genuine musical expression from a serious artist or band. They may look right and may even sound right, but there is something inherently phony and slapdash about them. "Phantom's Divine Comedy Part 1" was released in 1974, perhaps a bit late to truly capitalize on the psych trend, but still making a vain attempt. What comes to mind first are the uncanny Morrison-esque vocals of Mr. Phantom (Ted Pearson) himself. You can almost hear some ambitious A&R jerkoff foaming at the mouth at the prospect of a Doors-like band performing horror themed bargain basement psychedelia via Vegas lounge jazz. Upon its release, rumors (perhaps started by the band's management) abounded about how it was indeed Morrison lending his vocal talents to "Divine Comedy Part 1," and I'm certain that Capitol Records higher-ups did little to nothing to dissuade such notions. Did it work? Well, have you ever heard of this album? Is it a bad album? Not by a long shot, my friend. Is it a great album? Well, quite frankly, no. However, it is good enough, strange enough, and rare enough to be included in the Cosmic Hearse pantheon. Phantom lays down nine songs rich in imagery crawling with spiders, wizards and demons, and even if the music is somewhat flat and unoriginal the whole affair is rather enjoyable, even if for its goofy, naive take on the psych/hard rock genre. Phantom never got around to recording "Divine Comedy part 2" (let this be a lesson to young bands, don't call something a "part 1" unless "part 2" is in the can and ready for release), so this album remains Phantom's sole contribution to the vast musical landscape of the early '70s. On the sultry "Tales from a Wizard," the album's first track, Phantom sounds most like the bloated deceased Lizard king he seeks to emulate. On "Devil's Child" Phantom opts for a more exagerrated soulful voice over a composition that sounds as if it could have been one of Joe Raposo's Sesame Street songs from the '70s. "The Calm Before the Storm" is another song that might have been culled from the Door's dumpster and "Half Life" is a creepy ballad that actually reminds me of later Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, had Nick Cave been born 15 years earlier. Smack dab in the middle of the proceedings comes the album's crown jewel, the geniusly titled, "Spiders Will Dance On Your Face While You Sleep." More of the same Halloween Super Store hard rock ensues until the albums epic closer "Welcome To Hell," a slow and slinky, melodramatic tale that encompasses all the themes explored in the album's other songs. Corny beyond belief, but still great fun. Welcome to Hell.