Saturday, September 22, 2012

MR. BROWN – Mellan tre ögon (Fly Khan, 1977)

International relevance: ***
English/Swedish vocals

Information on Mr. Brown is hard to come by. What is well known however is that they released a privately pressed symphonic progg album held in high regard among collectors of the genre. The album cover is one of the weirdest in the entire progg genre and suits the curious title well, which in full reads ”Mellan tre ögon med Mr Brown” (”Between three eyes with Mr Brown”).

The obvious point of reference is Pink Floyd - ”Dark Side of the Moon” and ”Wish You Were Here” in particular - with nice folksy touches in a Jethro Tull vein. The Tull influence is particularly clear when the flute enters the otherwise piano oriented sound, as in ”Kharma 74” and the only proper track sung in Swedish, ”Liv i stad utan liv”. There are also pseudo-classical moves, mandatory to an album in this ilk. But Mr. Brown never falls into the pretentious traps. They keep it low-key and the emphasis is on highly lovable melodies and a lush, clean sound. Considering this is a private pressing, the album is even more impressive. The production is appealing and with all the beautifully crafted melodies, it should attract even the toughest symph skeptic.

Three of the tracks are entirely instrumental, and it is these that reveals the Jethro Tull leanings the most. Mr. Brown often take a simple, melancholic melody and build a whole song around it.
”Resan till Ixtlan”, named after Carlos Castaneda's book, even hints at Leonard Cohen's ”Bird on a Wire” wrapped in that semi-classical robe so elegantly worn by the band.

The most curious track is the album closer, ”I'll Arise”, which puts all symphonic aspirations aside in favour of what can best be described as a Lou Reed pastiche! It's not far removed from the style Reed adapted in the years from the Velvet Undergrounds third LP up to his first solo album. A suprising ending to an oddly addictive and overall excellent album!

Rumour has it that Mr. Brown reformed a couple of years ago for live gigs but skipped the style of their sole album altogether to play only 60's covers. A weird move it seems when you hear what kind of original quality material this seven piece was churning out on ”Mellan tre ögon”. One Anders Giselsson stated on that members Anders Nilsson (keyboard) and Håkan Andersson (guitar, mandolin, vocals) were still writing songs together as late as 2005.

Four of the original band members have been affiliated with other progg acts over the years, such as the obscure Östan Sol Västan Måne, Bluesblocket, Blå Schäfer, and the strange ”anti-progg progg” rightwing singer/songwriter Carl-Anders Dexter, none of them anywhere near Mr. Brown in neither style nor brilliance.

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