All of your favorites, in one place.
"This long overdue double-disc compilation not only makes Comus' superlative First Utterance LP widely available at an affordable price for the first time, it also includes the legendary band's oft-ignored second album and a handful of rare tracks, singles and b-sides. Previously, the only way to hear much of this music was to track down the original Pye/Dawn LPs, which frequently trade hands for upwards of a thousand dollars for a VG+ copy, or to buy one of the exorbitantly priced bootleg CD reissues that have surfaced on Korean and Japanese labels over the years. Indeed, First Utterance is probably the ultimate psych-folk Holy Grail, a storied and obscure album that more than earns its reputation. In writing this review, I had to make an effort to remain as dispassionate as possible, as First Utterance is certainly one of my top five favorite albums of all time, and I've been obsessively trying to uncover its mysteries over the period of eight years since I first heard it. This album, along with Jan Dukes De Grey's Mice and Rats in the Loft, is probably the truest manifestation of the genre sometimes called "progressive folk," as songs with a distinctly Brit-folk vibe are stretched out into dynamic, multi-part convocations, joined together with instrumental passages of acoustic guitar, reeds and hand percussion. Far from being the sort of contrived, antiseptic art-rock normally associated with the "progressive" tag, the music made by Comus is fierce and visceral, passionate and intense, living in an ever-present now. To listen to First Utterance is to be kidnapped by cult of forest-dwelling mages and witches, who drug you, blindfold you, strip you naked and convey your cold, quivering corpus to a clearing in the woods, where you are forced to participate in an ancient initiation rite. Along the way are invocations of the huntress-goddess Diana, chilling murder ballads, songs of praise to a malevolent demon, stories of necrophilia, crucifixion and insanity. There are moments of fragile, pastoral beauty on First Utterance, but they are interrupted at unpredictable intervals by the frightening howls, growls and vocal ululations of singer Roger Wootton. It's frequently amazing just how much power and ferocity the quintet are able to pull out of their completely acoustic instruments, making the album also function as a sort of unplugged proto-Metal album. Songs seem to slither and pulsate, with their own phantasmagorical logic, traveling from innocuous nature hymns set against placid folk music, to anarchic, tribalistic surrenders to the nightmarish and Satanic, often within the same song. This frightening dynamism led David Michael Formerly Tibet to declare that First Utterance was his favorite album of all time, and Current 93 covered "Diana" on their Horsey EP. The band is also on the Nurse With Wound list, and are frequently namechecked by a slew of recent "freak-folk" acts, many whom, shall we say, have "borrowed" their eccentricities from Comus' monolithic LP. Besides a great remastering job, which renders the album clearer and louder than ever before, this package also includes extensive biographical notes, photographs and reproductions of the LP art. This double-disc set also includes the entire Diana 12" maxi single, which contained two seldom heard b-sides, as well as a previously unreleased track ("All the Colours of Darkness") very much in the same vein as the First Utterance material. And then there is disc two, which contains Comus' much-maligned sophomore effort To Keep From Crying. The album was released in 1974 on Virgin Records to very little fanfare, much like the first record, only in the case of Crying, its failure was very much deserved. In fact, the more I listen and try to reconsider my opinion about Comus' artistically compromised second album, the more I am convinced that it is absolutely the worst second album I've ever heard. The edgy, insanely creative and instrumentally proficient Comus from the first album is nowhere in sight, and in its place is nothing but a throwaway piece of MOR folk-rock fare, poorly produced and containing no memorable songs. Apparently the album was made rather begrudgingly by a band that, only a few months before, had decided to break up for good. This lack of elan is clearly in evidence on To Keep From Crying, and though I can't help but think that I might like the album better were I not comparing it to a masterpiece like First Utterance, it doesn't change the fact that this is indeed the same Comus who recorded that great LP, and it's downright tragic. The band members interviewed for David Wells' liner notes allude to their desire at that time to record an album that would be more likely to sell. Money and fame have never been particularly good motivating factors for great art, and this just proves it once again. However, even though I don't care to listen to Comus' second album ever again, I must say that it certainly belongs on any CD that's going to call itself Song to Comus: The Complete Collection, and congratulations go to everybody for going the extra mile to make this a truly complete release. On the basis of disc one alone, this is the reissue of the year." (Brainwashed)