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Comus - First Utterance CD (album) cover

FIRST UTTERANCE

Comus

 

Prog Folk

4.16 | 548 ratings

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SteveG
4 stars Confronting your inner demons.

In the annals of prog, I can think of no other prog folk album that appeals to folkies as well as those that worship technical death metal. First Utterance by Comus was a one off album recorded in 1970 by a talented bunch of musicians that, much like Black Sabbath, we're dismayed with the love and peace flavored hippie aesthetic found in most late 60's era rock music. Including those found in the genre known as acid folk that was famously championed by the Incredible String Band.

Comus combined lyrics that dealt with pagan themes of rape, torture, murdering of a Christian, and insanity, while creating acoustic based music invoking a pastoral love and regard for the dark forests where paganism thrives.

The vocals to these nightmarish themes are handled by Roger Wootton, who sounds like a cross between Roger Chapman and Mark Bolan. His voice is limited, but his guttural near growls and alarming falsetto are perfect to convey the menacing lyrics. Aided in conveying a feeling of the alternating menace with the ethereal are the female spectral-like vocals of Bobbie Watson.

What really sells this album of lyrical debauchery is the stellar musicianship of all involved. Guitarist Glenn Goring is a master of acoustic slide as well as fingering picking on both 6 and 12 string acoustics and gives much of the music it's folk pedigree. His moaning slides at the beginning of the song "Drip Drip" perfectly set up such a violent tale. He's helped along by Colin Pearson's violin and viola that alternates from rustic romps to dissonant eeriness, as does the flute and oboe playing by Rob Young, The only electric instrument played throughout is in the wonderful groove filled bass lines of Andy Hellaby, which helps to give some of the songs a Tull-like feel without being derivative. As this album was released before Tull's TAAB, it would be hard to argue the point anyway. Completing the musical line up are hand drums and bongos played so expertly, by the afore noted members as the group have no drummer, that they are given a solo in the albums opening track titled "Dianna."

What makes the songs on First Utterance so compelling and listenable are the quality of the compositions, especially the album's centerpiece "Song To Comus" and the fact that Wootton's half slurred or distorted vocals help to hide half of the graphic debauchery, which may not be so welcomed if clearly enunciated.

My purpose of extolling First Utterance to prog fans has always been motivated by my inclination to expand the appeal of prog folk to those that see nothing more to the genre than strumming acoustic guitars. However, even if prog fans never move beyond listening to First Utterance, they'll still be in a select group that has heard something extremely difficult to replicate. Comus' ability to mix such musical menace and beauty is a rare trick of alchemy that actually does seem magically pagan, from a far off time, and completely lost to the modern world.

SteveG | 4/5 |

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