Comic book-themed novelty records are a big deal, especially to those with only a marginal understanding of thew source material. In the day when a Spider-Man musical and Batman Live extravaganza demand high ticket prices from audiences, the shlock detector is decidedly broken. Once upon a time, The Spider-Man rock album was an oddity, the Metamorpho themesong a rarity, but they soon became commonplace (thanks in large part to word of mouth online)… now you have to look long and hard for the odd and obscure.
Then there is this mind-blowing track beginning with the groaning battle cry ‘HULK KIIIIILLL!!’ followed by the lyric ‘underneath that thick green hide is a very mixed up man.’
This one is known by many but after I saw that 30 Days of Night scribe Steve Niles was new to it, I realized that there may be more out there unfamiliar with the experience of The Marvel World of Icarus. Prog rock meets ‘heroes with problems’ and creates a massive record with even bigger problems, but man is it entertaining if you are in the mood.
In 1971, pyschedelic English progressive-rock band Icarus released The Marvel World of Icarus, an entire LP dedicated to characters from the Marvel comics universe. It never saw a second pressing, either due to poor sales or legal issues with the folks at Marvel. Bootlegs have been floating around ever since, and this past weekend I came across a nice (and legitimate) vinyl reissue of the album. “I love Marvel comics and prog rock!” I said to myself, more ready than ever to spend $25 on a record that I’d never heard. “It would be silly of me not to buy this!” Then, alas, I listened to it.
Turns out that purchasing the album was actually the silly thing to do. Icarus plays lame, uninspired “hard prog” and sounds mostly like a weaker Captain Beyond. Their woodwind work owes way more to Jethro Tull than to Hawkwind, and the band’s free-form explorations are clumsy child’s play next to parallel efforts by their peers in King Crimson and Yes. On top of it all is lead singer Steve Hart, trying to force Marvel 101 factoids into Limericks 101 rhymes in his flat, cheesy rasp. Example: “Only one guy I’ve ever known whose face is built that way / Red Skull is his name / Tell him I’m coming to play.” (In case you needed a friendly reminder that Captain America’s arch nemesis is Red Skull.) I’m sure this record would be fun to spin while you drink a few beers before going out to see The Avengers for the third time, but I can’t recommend it for the serious and sober. (Am I the only person here who’s seen The Avengers three times?)
The Marvel World of Icarus isn’t all bad, though—hence today’s 12 O’Clock Track. “Iron Man” caught my ear immediately and has already earned repeat spins. Cool layers of far-out, spacey synths propel this song into a league of its own. Sure, it’s got nothing on the better-known song of the same title, but it’s fun, spooky, weird, and catchy. I can’t stop listening to it.
Other noteworthy tracks include the otherworldly jazz tune Conan
The smooth tune Black Panther sounds like it is just waiting for an early 1970’s TV pilot.
Hats off to the finest track devoted to Daredevil, Man Without Fear in which you can almost hear Jethro Tull’s manager dialing a lawyer.