5.12.12

Methuselah - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (1969)



John Gladwin - guitar, vibraphone
Terry Wincott - guitar, vocals
Les Nicol - guitar, vocals
Mick Bradley - drums
Craig Austin - bass, vocals

Methuselah's sole LP release didn't connect with the record-buying public of its day, but it contains some great moments, even if the entire exercise bears a heavy sheen of pretension. Singer John Gladwin wrote the bulk of the material on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and he displays a jones for biblical imagery that may have confused some of the band's potential secular audience, as well as alienating any devout listeners who wondered what any of it had to do with Christianity. There's no true gospel to be gleaned from Methuselah, just lots of familiar Bible references and name-drops, but Les Nicol's lead guitar cuts through any nonsense, ripping out snarling solo runs even during the quietest moments and keeping things grounded. At their best, Methuselah recall a noisier, uglier Fairport Convention, mixing traditional British folk with American blues and injecting a straight shot of psych-out electricity for the long-hairs. The album's standout track is undoubtedly the thumping, blazing "High in the Tower of Coombe," a downbeat tale of medieval wench thievery with an anthemic instrumental hook, and the excellent "Fireball Woman" is mournful, high-volume balladry. A finale of "Frere Jacques" is downright excruciating, unfortunately, a progressive rock misstep complete with falsetto chorus and a jazzy instrumental breakdown. Despite Methuselah being such a very British band, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was only released in the United States, issued by Elektra alongside bands like the Stooges and Love. Methuselah dissolved shortly afterward, and Gladwin and rhythm guitarist Terry Wincott unplugged themselves to form the unique folk act Amazing Blondel, which endured into the 21st century. ---- Fred Beldin