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Comus - To Keep From Crying CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.78 | 95 ratings

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3 stars It's NOT "First Utterance!" Get over it!

This poor album. It is the bullied runt of a two dog litter. It's the Oliver Twist of rock and roll. It's the little reindeer dog to the "First Utterance" Grinch. Everyone that plays this album carries with them all of the expectations from the masterpiece "First Utterance" and when they find "Crying" is not a repeat, their disappointment cannot be contained. It is true that "Crying" lacks the sheer power and breadth of FU but it has its own charms if you judge it on its own terms. You have to put FU out of your mind and listen with fresh ears as if listening to a new band, which you essentially are. And you have to be a fan of a more sunny approach-which this is. After the release of FU Comus began to experience difficulties as a band and amazingly the album that so many consider a classic today was not warmly received by critics at the time. They continued to tour but by '72 the friction caused by a lack of future prospects saw Comus coming apart at the seams. Things floated in limbo as key members left the band over the next year or two. Then suddenly from nowhere Virgin Records came out of the woodwork and expressed interest in another Comus album. The band were less-than-thrilled to be reforming and indeed Goring, Pearson, and Young would not return at all. New members were added to the remaining group of Wootton, Watson, and Hellaby.

As I said, you need to purge your head of Comus as you know it before spinning this album. It is a completely different trip. Gone is the chaotic pagan vibe of sinister woodland ritual. "Crying" sounds more like a lost Brian Wilson album, like the 2nd cousin of "Smile" with a bag of charms derived from catchy melodies and incredible vocal performances. Yes these tracks sound more "pop" but they are not cheap throwaway pop music, in fact I believe there remains some darkness to this material, it is simply shrouded by the kind of cheery mask that some psych-pop bands employed. It approaches pop the way Roxy Music or Bowie did, in a playful, quirky manner. While Wootton himself recalls the album with less than pleasure, one must remember that the artist is not always the best judge of their own work-no doubt his memory is affected by the admitted personnel and side management issues that were plaguing Comus and their members. For me listening to "Crying" without those memories I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoy these songs. "Down" opens the album with something that sounds like a tight Bowie single covered by Comus, probably Virgin's best hope for the single that didn't happen. It's a more conventional rock track than anything from FU with full drumming and big time bass. "Touch Down" is a slow, trippy number that shows off the gorgeous high end vocals that Wootton and Watson were capable of together. "Figure in Your Dreams" is Bobbie Watson having a ball with a very sweet and playful, old-fashioned sounding number, Wootton backing her with lots of "ba ba bas." I can see why some would criticize such an obviously light-hearted number on a prog site, but if I pause my cynicism mode I just love every second of it. "Children of the Universe" is a real hippie anthem if there ever was, melodramatic in verse, then overblown in the chorus, but again skillfully arranged and irresistible to me. (I interrupt this review to announce that I have officially just fallen in love with the voice of Bobbie Watson.) "So Long Supernova" and "Perpetual Motion" are more of the light-hearted pop that apparently so irritates their fans and again I'm just immersed in the vocals, they are all about fun and a high-gloss outer sheen. Yes, ear candy, easy and innocent. Perhaps some of it is tongue-in-cheek gaudiness but not every quality prog-folk release needs to cover rape and hangings. Have some fun, too. And then Bobbie really swings for the fences, going positively Laura Nyro for "Get Yourself a Man." If I didn't know better the first time I heard it I would swear it was from an early Nyro album-just lovely, then it finishes with a rippin' little sax solo. The title track closes the album with a heartwarming lullaby, Watson sounding as if singing to you from a dream..sounding so far is a great track. In the mid section the bass or guitar has strange effects attached giving it a mild distortion. The ending builds to a dramatic, sentimental climax with keyboards getting quite bold. This is followed by a short postscript. There are actually three short ambient interludes mixed here and there which give the album a bit more character. These were the result of bassist Hellaby's interest in effects and "musique concrete."

"Crying" is just another side of is the light whereas "First Utterance" was the dark. Take them in as separate musical experiences and realize up front that Crying is a folk-rock/pop album with a sunnier disposition-it is still a tremendously satisfying pearl to me. I'm so happy I didn't listen to the poor reviews on this one, the music on this album literally lifts my spirits. Crying was released in the summer of 1974 and sank without a trace as the band dissolved for over three decades-til now, when Comus is rising again. They are doing live shows now but we can only hope they will attempt to record the second lost album that was supposed to follow First Utterance, the mysterious "Malgaard Suite" which was a "Lord of the Rings" style concept piece with long tracks-it was completely written and played a bit at shows, but never recorded. One can dream.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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