Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Well, it's been a really bad year of atrocities, violence, bigotry, and hate, but I was thinking around the time that Beelzebub took over our nation what is gonna happen well is anything good gonna happen? Little did I know that I would finally unlock the secret to what must be the rarest album ever made and certainly one that is eerily confluent with today's disturbing world news we get every day and also that I would be moving out of what has turned into a sheer Hell for me and going to a much nicer place. The news is that I have been trying to find the answers to some records you just can't ever find and there are no reissues so not much hope unless you happen to get really lucky and I would mean something like a God given miracle. One such album is the ominous and really bizarre masterpiece THE PHANTOM'S PROPHECY by a band of Americans, a Swede, and a Russian in Canada called THE BLUE SMOKE. This record is more than an enigma and when I got in touch with guitarist/vocalist Randolph Kross and his vocal partner (and amazing stage presence) Chris Mayers rather all of a sudden I found out a whole lot.  I'm afraid I have some pretty bleak news for those of us who want a reissue or some way to hear this and that is from Chris "We aren't ready to have that unleashed on the world again and even if we were there has been a long battle going on to find the master tapes. We believe rather sadly that they like many copies of the album they are destroyed. It was my SMILE my Brian Wilson freak out." When asked what makes the band still afraid to have a reissue done of an album I consider very special Randolph and Chris both say (Randolph first) "Well we're hearing a lot of negativity these days and hate is a word we're hearing too much of so we don't want to say we hate it, but we like good old Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront say we could've been contenders. It's not the music that makes us hesitant it's the shitty production job which must be the worst ever and only ourselves to blame!" Chris now: "We were signed to Atlantic after an amazing show and we thought we were on the way to a great future. Instead their Canadian office closed and apparently the whole thing was being done behind Ahmet Ertegun's back and when we heard of the skullduggery we were pretty upset. We thought we had a bright future and then Capitol got in touch and I screamed at the A&R guy and slammed the phone down on him because he wanted us to make our music sound more like that awful band Bloodrock."
   So what about the admittedly rather muddled and crazed production? Randolph says "We were a nightclub band before the Atlantic disaster and the 6 of us were all from very different musical backgrounds. We wrote the songs me, Chris, and his brother Roland about the horrible savagery of mankind that had come out in the worst ways in the Vietnam war as I was Swedish, the bass player's real name was Boris Arkypov and he was a vagabond traveling Russian Jew, and everybody else were Americans who fled to Canada. The My Lai massacre had just happened and we wanted a very dark and chaotic sound. We produced it ourselves and we hadn't any idea how to do it properly."
   The Blue Smoke would later have Randolph Kross and Boris Goldman aka Boris Arkypov go onto some fascinating and ultra rare other bands whilst Chris Mayers joined some other ultra rare bands that showed all of the band members moving away from dark and mystical music of The Phantom's Prophecy, but the more I listened to it with Randolph over the years the better it's sounded to both of us. Gems like their slowed down version of the classic Pete Townsend/Who song "Pictures Of Lily" with unexpected rhythm changes and screaming harmonies (imagine Uriah Heep gone really mad meets The Association on acid) and the scariest track on the album "The Face" originally titled "The Bloody Face Of War" with ominous Doors atmospheres and more screaming harmonies reveal this album to be quite an impressive mixture of psychedelic rock, left field jazzy organ club rock, and progressive Genesis alike tracks. Randolph's high pitched Ian Gillan styled wailing coupled with the Jim Morrison and Mr Elvis Presley inspired smooth intonations of Chris Mayers show that opposites can definitely create something relevant, but what ravenous collector's who have heard this album want to know besides how good the music is is the underlying menace of the project that freaked the band out and why no copy has surfaced since one sold for $700 in 1995. I scratched my head. I scratched it again. This was a question only Randolph and Chris could answer and over a wonderful meal we talked all about it.
       According to the band members (I've had the same accounts from all of them) the album was privately manufactured after the Atlantic and Capitol fiascos by their manager and just like many other ultra rarities it was handed out at gigs back then. Also, the war wasn't the only thing troubling the band it was watching their dream of peace and world unity die at the hands of corruption a view we all can relate to in the miseries of today's world.  Boris Arkypov would have a lot to do with songs like "The Last Testament" and "The End Of A New Beginning according to Chris Mayers "He was what the right wing Jews hate a Jewish man who hated all persecution and he asked me what I thought of Israel. He was going to go there to find peace and he saw something so disturbing he swore he would never venture there. I was thinkin' Altamont and he was thinkin' the genocide against The Palestinians so he helped a lot with that one. "The Last Testament" is a really good song that was also helped out by good old Boris because he introduced me to Moses and Jesus and we both liked the idea of writing a song about scriptures from both The Old Testament of The Bible and The New Testament being taken in vain by right wing preachers and false Messiahs. They were also stage favorites." I had to ask after all this good information about that last copy that sold and why nothing absolutely nothing had turned up since then. The sad news came fast and I heard it during the dinner with Randolph and Chris. Randolph explains "The guy who sold that copy was a complete asshole. He sent it out with a bunch of hate messages to collectors that were also very narcissistic. A lot like your president. He ran out of people to cheat and people to suck into deals with him, but he also ran off with a perfect copy. To tell the truth you heard wrong about nothing surfacing since then." I did a double take. So the tales I'd heard of a few stray copies being found in Canadian record stores and also turning up as a favorite album of some current NHL hockey players were true? Yes they are as Chris explains "Canadians regard us as their little band that should have been a big band and it gets passed down over the years. I drew the album cover to suck people in and since beneath all that chaos is caring people have found it in hippy joints and stores for people on welfare. We were huge in Montreal with restaurant goers who would come to the club next to a really good Middle Eastern joint where we ate a lot. I remember those days sadly on the business end and happily for gigs because we were so good live it was better than the album. The whole NHL thing is because we were all hockey players ourselves just not professionals. I recently played pond hockey with a few guys from The Montreal Canadiens and their arch rival Boston Bruins and I gave them a  few signed copies. They said we were better than the music they normally listened to I was a happy guy!"
     This album deserves a reissue, but only if collectors stop hounding labels for one with superior sound quality. It turns out the master tapes were badly damaged and so the band if it ever happens will have to take it from an album. I have tried to find a spare copy for 24 years and not had any luck. I wouldn't give up, though. Once in a blue moon there have been a few rather worn sounding copies that people buy for an album cover that is actually meant as a trashing of Satanism and not to condone it or because they remember "The Little Band That Could Have Been A Big Band." It turns out that Randolph Kross since the breakup of his last band Archaic Domination has been running a great record store back in Sweden and an album that he finds particularly interesting is When You're Dead- For One Second the monster rarity by The Ghost "I think that band got a raw deal and were doing some things like us from a more twisted vantage point. I don't know if they were Satanic, but we weren't. I get mad when I get asked about there being occult references to our songs and subliminal messages because it's so obvious there are none whatsoever. I would suggest people going back in history and looking at the disasters we have now. There's a reason why I scream You Will Not Ever Learn! on that record. We talked of how mankind is a failure. We're socialists. We believe in The Gospel, but not from a right wing bible belt perspective. I want to end our conversation with this: We've got to find some solace and push forward." I told Randolph I couldn't say it better myself. Peace to you all and happy hunting for this one!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Blake,

    Just wanted to alert you to the fact that Chet Nichols has been on a musical tear these days. His new album, "Hollywood Altars", could be one of the best records around. Also, he has just released a refreshed version of his second album, "The Waving Prairie"..... it is a fine follow-up to his album, "Time Loop". BY the way, back in 2016, Chet re-released, "Time Loop", as "Beetles Are Coming" after a long and meticulous re-mixing and re-mastering of, "Time Loop". During the process they found some better cuts of songs and added a great bonus track, "Red Tide"...that had been misplaced.

    Anyway, we loved your review of, "Time Loop", and thought you'd like to know about these new albums, especially, "Hollywood Altars"....wow, what great songs.

    PS Just saw he is about to release yet ANOTHER new album, "Hotel Jezebel". Heard some of the early teaser tracks and it is going to be another amazing addition to Chet's catalogue.

    He has a very cool and deep new website....check it out: http://www.chetnichols.net