s-l1000
Comus iTunes Tracks Comus Official Website

Comus

From the depths of London came forth the mighty COMUS, a wyrd, psych-rock outfit experimenting in a witches’ brew of freak-folk and airy-faerie musings. The country was just settling in for a Brit-folk-fest of early 70s FAIRPORT/PENTANGLE/INCREDIBLE STRING BAND delights when the gory COMUS adventured beyond anything previously heard of. Interchangeable and alternate vocalists Roger Wootton (also their main songwriter) and high-pitched female Bobbie Watson led the way for this complex and lyrically brainstorming act. The occult was more than obvious and apparent on their debut LP, FIRST UTTERANCE (1971) {*8}, a manic but classic start for the group who also comprised viola/violinist Colin Pearson, bassist Andy Hellaby, guitarist Glen Goring and flautist Rob Young.
Taking inspiration from prog-rock meisters KING CRIMSON (right down to Wootton’s `In The Court of…’-like sleeve artwork), the album was a ground-breaking spiritual fusion between feverish hard-rock and mystical, pastoral folk. Wootton’s ROGER CHAPMAN/FAMILY-like throaty warbling were, in effect, the band’s forte: opening salvo `Diana’ (penned by Pearson and also edited as a single!) was a primeval example of their supernatural sounds. In stark comparison, track 2 `The Herald’, saw the ethereal SANDY DENNY-like Bobbie come to the fore, although much of the 12-minute song fragments into off-tangent, early GENESIS-like prog. The bluesy `Drip Drop’ had, once again, Wootton classically portraying why the Devil has all the best tunes, while `Song To Comus’ is JETHRO TULL, FAMILY and FOREST in a sort of triumvirate of tense, tribal torture. Tracks 5 and 7, `The Bite’ and `The Prisoner’ respectively, get playful, lying somewhere between a jazzy PENTANGLE and a folky TYRANNOSAURUS REX/BOLAN – folk music would never be the same.
Three barren years were put behind them after Virgin Records took the reins for a sophomore/comeback set, TO KEEP FROM CRYING (1974) {*6}. It would be fair to say that any fans COMUS had accrued a few years back were substantially lost, although the album did feature members of GONG (Didier Malherbe) and HENRY COW (Lindsay Cooper). Not exactly exuding elements of purist folk-rock (the genre was virtually posted missing here), the album kicked off with the catchy, pop-friendly `Down (Like A Movie Star)’, a song more akin to the likes of JEFFERSON STARSHIP. On reflection, the LP had its folkier moments. The harmony-fuelled, squeaky-clean `Touch Down’ and `Figure In Your Dreams’ and the prog-led `Children Of The Universe’, were side one’s best pieces. On the flipside, the NEW SEEKERS-esque, Bobbie Watson-sung `Perpetual Motion’ (and the pre-KATE BUSH `Get Yourself A Man’) found favour above the poppy `So Long Supernova’, but Prog vs. Folk had no winners on this occasion.
Re-formed in 2008, COMUS completed a comeback of sorts through a series of concerts, Wootton, Watson, Goring, Pearson, Hellaby and wind man Jon Seagroatt performing live again. One of their best gigs, at the Melloboat Festival 2008 was belatedly released in 2011 as the punningly-titled EAST OF SWEDEN {*6}; among their own gems was their version of The VELVET UNDERGROUND’s `Venus In Furs’.
Not resting on their laurels, the sextet were indeed OUT OF THE COMA (2012) {*7} – as their studio title suggested. Splitting the album into two sections, the first found them in familiar ground witnessed on three fresh tracks (opening with the title piece), the second stretch was the epic, and almost lost `Malgaard Suite’, a raw prog-rock etching from their halcyon days back in 1972.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Jul2012

Share this Project

Leave a Comment