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Comus - First Utterance CD (album) cover

FIRST UTTERANCE

Comus

 

Prog Folk

4.16 | 651 ratings

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Dapper~Blueberries
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Progressive folk is a genre known for its pastoral, English countryside encompassing rich greens and golds. All that pretty?pretty dandies. But screw all that, let's talk about Comus.

Comus is a band that was started in 1969 by Roger Wooton and Glenn Goring, who performed in folk shows prior. They would turn from a duo to a six piece band by the 70s, and during that time they would begin writing their first record of First Utterance. They wouldn't quite gain much threshold in the commercial sphere, however many popular artists like David Bowie and Mikael Akerfeldt would find appreciation for their craft.

For me, Comus took a bit to set in for me. I remember hearing them in the summer of 2021, exploring any proggy stuff I can get my hands on. That summer was when I discovered many acts I would grow to really love and appreciate, like Frank Zappa, Can, Magma, Swans, and The Residents. Among those groups was Comus, however my first impression of the band was rocky. Trust me when I say this, I did not like this album when I first heard it. It felt TOO weird, which was odd since I liked The Residents. There was just something I didn't like about the music Comus made, it just did not click for me. However, now as I listened to plenty of bands, like Faust, Current 93, and y'know, bands that are much MUCH more abstract and weirder than Comus?and also after listening to this album a bit more throughout the week, I grew to quite like them.

I don't quite think of it as the masterpiece people say it is, I still think there are some issues I have with this record, but a lot of the good stuff outweighs the bad. For starters, I really love the instrumentation here. It is a manic, psychedelic affair of both chaos, beauty, and horror, wrapped in an almost rock-like texture. At points it is jarring, at other points it is very jarring, and at rare moments it is incredibly gorgeous, but all of it feels like Comus. You know, I think this is one of those times where the album art and the music match, because this sounds like music envisioned by a disheveled, skinned down, old man, lying, crying and screaming. It is as freak folk as you could get, and it's all very greatly put together.

I also adore Bobbie Watson's vocals here. She appears on most of the songs, being backing vocals for a lot of them, however with the exception of The Herald. Her vibrant, lush voice contrasts the rest of the music, but still manages to put an off atmosphere, as if she too is one with the man on the cover, but just hides it better than the rest of the crew here.

Speaking of vocals, I am not quite a fan of Wootton's vocals. Well, more accurately, they kinda get tiring after a while. At first with tracks like Diana and Drip Drip, his vocal works are pretty dang strong, being quite in tune and eclectic in his vibratos, and for the first time pretty favorable. However after Song To Comus they start to get rather old for me, and at times annoying. Points like The Bite and The Prisoner make me wish he let the music breathe a bit more without spouting a bunch of, while good, very dark and cryptic lyrics at us.

The second side in general certainly isn't as good as the first for me. While I do really enjoy Song to Comus?The Bite, Bitten, and The Prisoner just aren't really that strong of tracks in retrospect to the magnificent Diana, the gorgeous The Herald, and the oppressively epic Drip Drip. At the point of these tracks, the sound of Comus has kind of played a bit too long for me, and while I can appreciate what the band was going for with these tracks, they just don't interest me as much as what the first half delivers. To say the least, this album is top heavy. I think it would be much better if the album tracks were Diana and the extended 12 minute version of The Herald on one side, and Drip Drip and Song To Comus on the other. That is at least what I believe should've gone down within this album's tracks.

All that aside, there is one song in particular that I really love, and consider to be the band's masterpiece, that being Diana. Now it may be there more popular track, I know, it was their lead single on this record, and it may not be as epic as The Herald or Drip Drip, but Diana contains so much in so little time that it all makes up for it with abstract freaky folk, proggy moments that can make even King Crimson shed a tear, and probably the best Roger has ever sounded on this record, and maybe his whole career. My favorite part of this whole song is the bongo solo provided by Rob Young, which honestly kinda weirdly reminds me of the guitar solos on Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas. I mean, both are probably both band's biggest singles, with both being amazing prog tracks that fit a ton of stuff in pretty short time windows. Weird comparisons to a completely different kind of band out of the way, this song is just awesome to me, and it is certainly one of the best progressive folk songs to be put out.

While First Utterance did not give me a good first impression, I grew to really like this album, and certainly see why many people consider it an amazing progressive folk output. I say give it a spin if you wanna check out some weird, psychedelic folk music, you may find a treasured record waiting to be unlocked.

Dapper~Blueberries | 4/5 |

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