Metromedia 1969 / Esoteric 2018
Semi-mythical album from original psychedelic duo who fractured under the weight of their cinematic vision.
They may have devised a first rock-opera in “The Story Of Simon Simopath” in 1967 and had been blackened on-screen by Salvador Dali, yet when Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos delivered their third musical cycle to Island Records, it was rejected – despite its decent tunes, Mike Hurst’s production, Tony Visconti sharing arranger duties and SPOOKY TOOTH providing rock accompaniment. More so, both American and British releases of the LP – erroneously known to fans as “To Markos III” – didn’t last long, all of this making it a collector’s item and getting in the way of the actual music’s quality. Or qualities – because, progressing beyond original experimentation, the British ensemble tried to embrace mainstream on this album that’s still full of characters but, perhaps, not so full of adventure, which probably became the reason for “Black Flower” failing to find favor with labels.
Sensually orchestrated to support the images conjured by its title – and the record’s title track is bursting with noir intrigue and electric tension – the album dabbles in baroque pop, the wave of strings immersing the listener into the tremulous sadness of “The World Is Cold Without You” whose continental drama is compromised once upbeat psychedelic touches caress the chorus. “Christopher Lucifer” could possibly be transferred from the duo’s debut and feel innocent, yet there’s a note of social disease behind the merry melody, while the elegiac piano wraps “Aline Cherie” in the spirit of a French film, and not for nothing it’s followed with the accordion-smeared “Tres, Tres Bien” – a patinated evocation of Gallic romance.
Still, the cavalcade of songs in the six-minute “Love Suite” borders on pastiche, female voices adding a layer of deliberate flirt with a movie-loving audience, and would arguably fare better as an instrumental piece which is attached to this reissue as a bonus, but vaudevillian elegance of “Excerpt From ‘The Blind And The Beautiful'” creates a story within a story, and this nesting of experience will produce a sonic vortex to offer a way out of delicious claustrophobia that, given harpsichord ghosts and trebling vocals, turns “I Talk To My Room” into a static quest. Strangely, two cuts find the band on the other side of the Pond as, almost incongruously, “It Happened Two Sundays Ago” performs a country-styled saloon dance before snapping back into sentimental beauty, and the uplifting tune of “Illinois” lights up American dream, whereas a couple of previously unreleased numbers – a scintillating Bohemian retro piece “We Can Make It Through” and acoustic ballad “June” – could have fit the record’s context much more logically.
It was another contradiction of this LP that, ultimately, broke the band, leaving Campbell-Lyons in charge of further albums and Spyropoulos out of business. They reunited in mid-’80s, but the wonder of “Black Flower” would never be achieved again.