By the Great Sun Jester

SIR LORD BALTIMORE’s “Kingdom Come” has long since earned a unique niche in rock history for a variety of reasons. Some bear repeating. Drummer and lead singer John Garner stands as one of the pioneers for the percussionist assuming such an important dual role. Garner’s voice, over a half century since the debut’s recording, still has the ability to shake listeners with its unhinged and lung-busting authority. Garner doesn’t have listeners per se –it’s closer to hostages.

The band’s self-titled sophomore effort has several high points but, overall, the debut is SIR LORD BALTIMORE’s lightning-in-a-bottle moment. It does not come again. One time BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN impresario Mike Appel likely robbed them, as he did The Boss, though Garner and Company had considerably less to steal, but there’s no question he deserves some praise heaped his way for making the debut possible.

SIR LORD BALTIMORE is is a band in need of a shepherd. Garner, guitarist Louis Dambra and bassist Gary Justin are three New York street kids, essentially, lucky enough to find music instead of darker paths. What they lack in virtuosity they make up for in raw boned energy. “Kingdom Come” is a brawl, a spit in the face of musical good taste, and completely unapologetic.

The title song is the key. SIR LORD BALTIMORE’s religious-themed lyric isn’t serving listeners a vision of Christ’s return adorned with trumpets and golden light. It’s the Apocalypse, full on, and articulated through the same Catholic point of view underlying BLACK SABBATH’s earliest material. Garner is much more than a screamer as singer; there’s self-lacerating soul underpinning his ferocious yowl and a little straight-up joy.

The whiplash churn of “I Got A Woman” is another banger. Dambra’s buzzsaw-like distortion mows down any opposition you may have and the elementary approach they take towards the power trio setup serves them especially well here. It’s blues splattered against a wall, demystified of any pretensions toward finesse. SIR LORD BALTIMORE dial up that whacked out blues punch ever harder with “Hell Hound”. Garner’s voice finds another level with his wide-eyed shriek during the song’s chorus. It has the subtlety of a jackhammer.

We're better off for it as hard rock/metal fans. “Master Heartache” is another Garner vocal tour de force with his confidence running at an all time high. It has the sort of first take live pop that no amount of studio production can mimic and the effect of such an approach is evident throughout the song. It packs the biggest wallop, however, during the song’s second half with the band squeezing out some of the most tortured turnarounds ever committed to tape.

“Hard Rain Fallin’” begins with a brief dialogue between Garner’s drums and Justin’s bass before Dambra barges into the song slashing away. SIR LORD BALTIMORE maintain the full on gallop for much of the song while incorporating several sudden tempo changes they negotiate with brutal results. Never simply beat the listeners to death with your fists when you can crack open their skulls with clubs, is the philosophy.

Yet SIR LORD BALTIMORE counters that as well. “Lake Isle of Innersfree” sounds like a different band-- the patient development and ornate instrumentation are enough to send listener’s minds spinning. Garner’s vocal flexibility is another surprising aspect of this late cut; he fills “Lake Isle of Innersfree” with a warm and gentle presence unlike any of the album’s earlier performances. SIR LORD BALTIMORE’s “Kingdom Come” has a reputation as a cult classic, being proto-metal at its most raw. That reputation is fully justified and remains as relevant over a half century later as it did in 1970. If you haven’t heard this classic, correct that oversight today.