Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Listen, listen

I have been working, in my mind, on a theory for some time that Listen, Listen by the late great Sandy Denny was a response to the Light Up the Fire album. The truth is even stranger.

The song is about a messianic individual, a mediaeval traveller of some kind, a Pied Piper or a recruiter for the Crusades.

Its chorus goes: "Listen, listen to him do,
He is the one who is for you.
Listen, they say,
He'll come and take us all away."

One verse states: "I am a traveller by trade,
I only have what I have made.
A fortune teller too they say,
And I can take you all away."

It was released as a single in September 1972 as the lead single from her solo album Sandy.

Significantly its musical accompaniment is heavy with mandolin, just like Light Up the Fire. Indeed it's the closest comparison I have ever found to tracks like When the Morning Comes and Roundabout. (Click on header for more....)

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Rez Band speaking at Greenbelt - new video

Something a little different today - we have found an amazing audio recording of the Rez Band (Resurrection Band), sometimes called the first Christian metal band, speaking at the Greenbelt festival in 1984.

We've put it up in Youtube with a video, sandwiched by their song Skyline, and here it is.

The Rez Band are interesting, not just for being early metallers, but because they emerged directly from the Jesus People movement of the early 70s. The commune they were involved with still exists in Chicago as Jesus People USA and still does social support and outreach work in a deprived part of the city. (click heading for more....)

Saturday, April 25, 2020

How can a poor man stand such times as this? - unreleased track

We thought it would be timely to share this great track from Parchment's unreleased third album at a time when the coronavirus is causing unusual hardship in the world. The song was written nearly hundred years ago by "Blind" Alfred Reed and reflected the hard economic times in the inter-war years. Most likely Parchment found it through Ry Cooder's version - but as so often the Parchment version is nothing like other renditions - it's got its own exuberance and passion! This is one of the few recordings to highlight the electric guitar work of Jeff Crow and indicates what could have happened if the band had found a level of commercial success in the mid-70s. The late John Pac was very opposed to releasing the "lost" third album and he was right. It's an interesting collection of songs and recordings - and this is one of the most notable - but did not hang together as an album release. It also had no Christian content - meaning it would have been hard to pitch it to the bands' Christian base. It needed more work and the development of a couple of stand-out tracks. Two tracks, Denomination Blues and Parchment's own People and Places were re-recorded for later albums.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Trinity Folk - the early years

 A few years ago we contacted Pete Wildman who had played with Trinity Folk and continued to make music. Pete was in India at the time and didn't reply - but seems to have got the message as he has now shared his own account of Trinity Folk and the origins of Parchment.

More on this later.
(Click on header for more...)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

When Parchment reunited!

A big thanks to local radio journalist Wayne Clarke for  linking us to a 2004 local radio interview, recorded, maybe, in Liverpool,

Wayne managed to get Sue, John and Keith Rycroft all on the air together for the first and last time in decades to mark the release of the Simply...Parchment CD set.

You can find the full interview, 46 minutes of talk and songs, by following the link to Wayne's blog here:

Wayne Clark blog
It is full of revelations.
  • The first revelation was that Keith Rycroft came from a group called Gospel Messengers, not Trinity Folk. And he is now a Quaker, he stated. 
  • Both John and Keith named Lovely Touching, from Hollywood Sunset, as one of their favourite songs.
  • The glorious You Were on My Mind was described as "rubbish" by one of them. It never made it to an album.
  • And, yes, we were correct in thinking they inspired Bono of U2. It's in his autobiography - supposedly.
  • Sue McClellan sang live when they appeared on Top of the Pops.
  • If you listen carefully to the end of the Light Up the Fire album you might hear the line "get your granny off the table." (I have never heard this...)
  • (Click on heading for more)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

12 days of Christmas quiz

Many of the answers to this quiz can be found on the site - but not all. In some cases we may not even know the answers.

1/ Which album records that "at Bethlehem in Israel the baby boy was born"?

2/ Which work by which artist connects the albums Hollywood Sunset and Shamblejam?

3/ The Parchment song Light Up the Fire reached number 32 in the UK pop charts. What song was top of the charts that week?

4/ The album Shamblejam has one song that was previously recorded for the unreleased "lost album". Who wrote the song?

5/ Which Parchment song was a tribute to an arts group in their home city of Liverpool?

6/ What band did Sue McClellan join after Parchment?

7/ Which members of Trinity Folk did not go on to become part of Parchment?

8/ Which Dutch rock album, released by Grapevine, currently retails for 208 dollars on the second hand market?

9/ Which band, produced by Parchment on Grapevine, had a band member who had a cousin who was in ...Parchment?

10/ Name three songs, written by or sung by Sue McClellan, about dreams?

11/ Which prominent Grapevine artist seemed to disagree with Sue's dreaming?

12/ How many versions of the song Light Up the Fire did the band record?

And if you want some Christmas listening, here is a link to our Parchment Christmas collection

Saturday, August 20, 2016

New Horizon

New Horizon Vision 1979 Producer: Sue McClellan Pilgrim PLM453
New Horizon  Sometimes Alleluia 1977 Producer: Sue McClellan Pilgrim PLM426

There was only one reason New Horizon were not recorded on the Grapevine label. They did not write original material.

They were a Scottish singing group, similar to Grapevine's Unity.

Sue McClellan's first outing with them was in 1977 when they produced highly listenable Sometimes Alleluia. But it was in 1979 they produced an album that should not be languishing in the obscurity of Ebay.

It was the title that made me chance a few pounds on Ebay for this album. It could only be a cover of Parchment's Vision, a song found on Rehearsal for Reunion and which later became the opening track of the Simply...Parchment CD. What I received was an album that was worth ten times what I paid.

The band offers layers of Scottish harmony, electric guitar and flute. A lot of flute. All deployed towards the performance of a collection of mostly obscure Christian songs. Not praise songs, proper songs. There are two tracks by Grapevine songsmiths Stewart and Kyle. There are songs that are so obscure I struggled to work out who might have performed them originally. There is a track that Unity also performed, suggesting it might be a Scottish song. There is something by Kevin Gould. And, yes, there is a rendition of Sue McClellan's Vision.

There is also the eponymous New Horizons, a song by the Moody Blues (another personal favourite - but hey, you only strike the jackpot once in a lifetime.)

Then on side 2 there was a song with the most amazing minor key melody. I was convinced I could place it - but I could not until I realised it was a little known song by the late Scottish pop/rock singer Jerry Rafferty. I put it on Youtube so you can hear it too. Do not listen to it on your own - as it will only make you weep. Rafferty was not a gospel artist - but he used the story of The Ark to produce a song of amazing profundity and relevance to the world of the 2010s that he, sadly, did not live to see.

* The man behind New Horizon was a Scottish musician called Ian Watson. He continued to be an influential figure in Scottish gospel music, directing an Annual Praise Gathering. I wonder if the choice of music for those events was equally eclectic.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Vision sung by New Horizon

For Christmas 2015 here is the song Vision, first recorded by Parchment on Rehearsal for a Reunion, sung by the Scottish group New Horizon on an album titled Vision and produced by Sue McClellan of Parchment. Vision is almost a Christmas song - technically it's an advent song, I think.
If you think this track is okay, you should stand by for something stunning from this album. More in 2016...


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Covers of Parchment songs

There are surprisingly few recorded covers of Parchment songs other than Light Up the Fire. But there are some ... and they span more than 30 years.

Parchment were very influential in the 1970s CCM scene - but the songs that were copied by other artists, other than Light Up the Fire, tended to be songs that were not their own, like Denomination Blues or Pack Up Your Sorrows.

Here is what I have found:

Better than Yesterday - Aslan, Paws for Thought 1976. Original on Light Up the Fire .

Ship Out on the Ocean - Mary McKee Meanings of My Life 1977 (Pilgrim). Original on Light Up the Fire.

Vision - New Horizon Vision 1979 (Pilgrim) Original on Rehearsal for a Reunion.

Corners of My Life -  Birch Book Tomorrow's Sun Will Rise the Same 2010. Original on Shamblejam

Does anyone know of any more?

More on New Horizon soon...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ship Out on the Ocean - Mary McKee with Parchment

Mary Mckee is a sweet-voiced singer of country songs from Northern Ireland and mostly performed with a band called The Genesis (not the Phil Collins Genesis).

She made a solo album with the Pilgrim label in 1977 and the production team was provided by Parchment - as was the backing music.

So her album Meanings of My Life, features contributions by John Pac, Sue McClellan and Pete Yates-Round.

On the album is a cover of a Parchment song, the Keith Rycroft written, Ship Out on the Ocean, which features on the Light Up the Fire album.

The Light Up the Fire version is quite lavish - so it's intriguing to see the band working on a more stripped down version with McKee. Pete Yates-Round's guitar work is sublime.

And this raises an interesting question: is it a cover of the song by Mary McKee - or is it in truth a remake of the song by Parchment working with Mary McKee?

Here's a video we made of the track.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Some Christmas collections for 2014

Just to get you in a seasonal mood for Christmas here's half a dozen songs from the "Parchment family", including some of the special Christmas videos we've made in the last few years:

 And, as a stocking filler, we've created a Parchment Christmas station on here.

You won't get much Parchment on the station - being Pandora the sounds range widely - but we've tried to exclude Phil Collins and some of the crooners. Run it in the background, you'll hear some gems, like this Appalachian Christmas song

If you have trouble getting access to Pandora because you're not in the USA, use

Saturday, December 13, 2014

And more Fresh Air...

John Pantry Live with Fresh Air. Not Guilty. 1983 Executive producer: John Pac. Producer: John Pantry. Pilgrim America RO3984

After releasing the studio album, Fresh Air, John Pantry and Fresh Air went on tour to the States. Except that not all Fresh Air went. The cover sleeve, here, shows the picture of the full line-up, the same picture that was used on the studio album with Sue McClellan, formerly of Parchment, and the singer songwriter Phil Potter. But neither Sue McClellan nor Phil Potter is credited on this live album nor do they appear on the photos of the US tour on the rear of the album.

So although Sue McC's photo appears on the album, it seems none of her work does.

John Pac and Pilgrim America used a format that was proving successful for Brits in this period - take a star artist, tour the USA and then release a live album, which knits together their greatest hits. It seemed to work - think Wings Over America or Peter Gabriel's smash hit live album. You can see from the sleeve photos that Pilgrim put some investment into the stage sets.

The tour was promoting Pantry's 1981 album Hot Coals. You can find out more about the album here.

And it seemed to work for the two John Ps. This is a great album, especially if you are a fan of John Pantry. But the Fresh Air project was clearly petering out. The three remaining members feature merely as backing singers.

There's a dedication to "Eric and Sue and all our  friends at St Andrew's."

Sunday, December 07, 2014

What Sue did next.....

Fresh Air. Fresh Air.  1982 Producer: John Pantry. Marshalls MRT1006

Some time ago we were told that, after Parchment and after the Grapevine label, Sue McClellan went to work on some Christian super-group project.

Here it is - Fresh Air - and here is an amazing picture of Sue McClellan, second from right, showing her youth as an 80s new wave rock chick.

Fresh Air was fronted by Parchment album producer John Pantry, second from left, by then an established and very successful Christian solo artist.

Disappointingly Sue didn't contribute any of the songs on this album - whilst John wrote and sang most of them. So it doesn't really count as the missing link between Parchment and River.

The band seems to have formed as a vocal band,  using others to contribute the backing music. If you can find the album, buy it for curiosity value. You get to hear Sue McC singing rock, for a start (She sang jazz on Shamblejam and the unreleased album).

It has some nice songs, some nice arrangements and some lovely bursts of music but, as often with "super groups", doesn't quite hang together. Unsurprisingly, given its date, it is heavy on key-boards - piano, keyboard and synthesiser and you won't get to hear Sue McC on the mandolin or guitar.

The band's other members were Phil Potter, an established solo performer, together with Donna Carey-Owen, Julie Moon and Steve Buckley. Chris Norton contributes one song and is responsible for arrangements.

The album was released on a new Marshalls label and John Pac is given a "special thanks" for "believing in us." Marshalls by now had taken over Pilgrim and Grapevine and John P was in the job which led to him eventually running Kingsway.

There's more Fresh Air out there and we'll be reporting on it soon.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Songs recorded more than once

If you listen to the single version of Where Can I Find You?, released sometime in 1973, you find almost a new song.

On the Light Up the Fire album, the song is a psych/folk/beat drone. It's a great album track.Review here.

Clearly the band or their record company felt the song was a single and they wanted to do something different.

The single version is New Seekerish. The New Seekers were big in 1972 and specialised in a very light form of folk/pop. There's a single lead vocalist, singing the tune as if playing live - it's probably Keith Rycroft. There's a lot of backing vocal, which does not feature on the album.

You can hear the single on this YouTube recording.

Full list of singles here.

Given the near absence of live recordings of Parchment, hearing two versions of one song is a treat. How many Parchment tracks were recorded twice?

This is what we can think of:
Working Man -  live as Trinity Folk, on Sound Vision in Concert
              -  as B side of Where Can I Find You single
Light Up the Fire - as single and as opening track of album of same name
              -  as final track on Rehearsal for a Reunion
Where Can I Find You? - track on Light Up the Fire album
               -  single version in 1973
Denomination Blues - on unreleased third album
               - on Shamblejam
People and Places - on unreleased third album
              -  on Rehearsal for a Reunion

And that's it - although we're currently looking into one more "almost Parchment" recording.

The promo single for Hollywood Sunset-  You Are My Morning - used the album tracks

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Where the cross and the manger meet

For Christmas 2013, here's one of the loveliest tracks from River, Sue McClellan's vocal group from the late 90s, early noughties. The song is Where the Cross and the Manger Meet and it appears on the band's last studio album, Shadow and Flame. So we've put some shadow and flame in the video.

And as it's Christmas we've mxied in a couple of Parchment songs to make a seasonal mix. Enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lights of the World

 By Clive Price

As a young person on a seemingly endless search for some kind of spiritual comfort, I found solace in the music of Parchment.

This progressive folk-rock outfit from Liverpool – initially John Pac, Sue McClellan and Keith Rycroft –  had become local heroes in north-west England. They achieved far more than many other acts of their genre at the time, in the 70s. They made the charts at home and abroad, recorded Top Of The Pops, played Wembley, the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. Their song Light Up The Fire became the anthem of a socio-political movement, and to this day is still one of the most sung compositions in school assemblies.


But all of that was secondary to me. I appreciated Parchment because, even though they were part of the religious music scene, they wrote about fear and doubt – words you weren’t meant to mention in church circles. They also understood that not everyone spoke Christian jargon with an American accent, and so their lyrics were down-to-earth, sometimes even mystical and often coloured with Scouse! And they used unorthodox sounds of wailing guitar, sitar and haunting vocals.

My friends and I would frequently travel to Liverpool to see them in concert. We’d also see them at the Greenbelt arts festival. I really liked Sue, with her heavenly voice and mysterious looks. I remember chatting with her once, and I kept thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m chatting with Sue McClellan, in her van!’ Silly, I know, but Parchment had a big impact on me.

Their song Light Of The World is a brilliant example of their craft. A guitar gently weeps George Harrison-style, the bass punctuating the intro, while the track opens with the words, ‘Holy Jesus of the seeing eye, gaze upon me in my dreams’. What on earth? Who else could get away with lyrics like that, in a starched evangelical sub-culture? Only Liverpudlians could manage that! I remember that line captivated me, as there’s always been a part of me that’s been open to mysticism. So for me, a prayer starting with ‘Holy Jesus of the seeing eye’ was a winner. John’s Scouse accent came across as he sang ‘making everythink alright’ instead of ‘everything’. I love that!

Then there was that strange song Green Psalm where Sue proclaimed, ‘I’m a daughter of the earth/Planted virgin at my birth/Like the breeze before it mingles with the dew’. These guys were treading on dangerous territory – how dare they mix spirituality, sexuality and virginity! Some clergymen must’ve surely been quaking a little at that, fearing their youth groups might become rampant New Agers after listening to Parchment.

Perhaps one of the most helpful tunes spiritually was Corners Of My Life, which spoke of our complete fragility and helplessness as we surrender to the Great Unseen, ‘walking where the angel showed’. The lyrics talk of being ‘possessed’ (in a good way!) and ‘casting off this heavy load’. It’s a very powerful prayer. All of these compositions were comforting and assuring, as I struggled with questions of faith and doubt. I warmed to the possibility that God might accept me after all, even with my darkest fears.

And now we’ve been faced with the very sad news that John Pac passed away on 22nd January. I’d met with John at various times over the years. He may have often wondered exactly who this eejit was, bugging him with stories of Parchment’s early days! Later on, we worked together on a project, and he was always fair with me. John not only nurtured and produced other artists – but also led development work in the Amazon basin with his wife Juliet. I can’t believe he’s gone, as he and his music were so much a part of my early search for spiritual fulfilment.

All I can say now is – thanks, John. See you some time. You did well. You did very well.

 With thanks to Clive for permission to use this article he posted first on his blog.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fast Train - Tribute to John Pac

Here for the first time is a song from Parchment's "lost" third album.

 Last year John Pac talked of making some of these tracks available. We have selected this song Fast Train, which John wrote, as it seems it held a special place in his heart. When you listen, you will understand why. The song was performed with Sue McClellan and Jeff Crow.

This video tribute also includes clips from three other Parchment/ John Pac tracks not currently available on Youtube:
Zip Bam Boo, Glory Shone Around and the ending of the original Light Up the Fire single - the bit that does not get sung in schools!
Zip Bam Boo appears on the Light Up the Fire album and Glory Shone Around on Rehearsal for a Reunion


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The late great John Pac

John Pac, or John Paculabo to give him his full name, was the rock who, together with Sue McClellan, held Parchment together through a turbulent and amazing seven years.

He died after a year long struggle with cancer on Tuesday January 22nd 2013, aged 66.

I always felt John was responsible for the more raucous elements of the Parchment sound, the pulsing beat/rock/folk that permeated the Light Up the Fire album and returned on the last album Rehearsal for a Reunion in songs like Jesus on that Mainline.

He was also responsible for the stunning mandolin sound that underlay so much of their music and to this day makes it exceptional and sought after by collectors.

John Pac

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Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas song by River

Here is a video reconstructing the live performance of River's great Christmas song Heaven Come Down in October 2004. The song, written by Sue Mack (Sue McClellan of Parchment) featured on their live album River Live at the Riverhouse and also on the studio album Rise Like The Sun. The music is taken from the live album and Sue Mack can be seen on the right leading the band.

The song was performed acapella - without instruments. Who can name what songs Parchment performed acapella?

Happy Christmas!

With thanks to Sue Mack for agreement to post this video.