Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hollywood Sunset

Hollywood Sunset was released in late 1973 by Pye with publicity in the national music press. In December 1973 BUZZ magazine promised a review of the album and an interview with the band in the next issue.

The interview appeared but not the review. And, remarkably, throughout the interview the new album was never referred to by name but only as "the new album".

Why could this have been? Hollywood Sunset was one of two albums to break the mould of the Jesus music scene at this time. The other was Larry Norman's So Long Ago the Garden. The magazine was similarly dismissive of Norman's controversial album, which, in its various pressings, contained little "evangelistic" material and a great deal of sharp comment and introspection.

Whilst BUZZ's parent organisation, Musical Gospel Outreach had pioneered the use of contemporary music styles, it's name indicates the belief that the music was largely there to support evangelisation.

Hollywood Sunset never once mentioned the name of Jesus or God. Just two songs had an explicit Christian message, Gift and Death in Jerusalem. You are my morning was a worship song with ambiguous lyrics. There was road music, urban angst, mysticism and some mild eroticism.

It was intended to break Parchment out of the Christian ghetto and establish them as serious recording artists. It was a professionally produced, early 70s pop album - but was probably about 12 months too late in terms of the rapidly-shifting 1970s pop tastes. It remains a great album and like all four Parchment albums is best listened to as a whole.

Although its pop-style makes it in some ways more dated than the other three albums, it's also probably the strongest lyrically. Songs like You are my morning, Gift and Getting out of this town are beautifully crafted whilst Dobbie's Song and I'm a Man expressed a thoughtful mysticism. The title track, written a couple of years before Star Wars transformed Hollywood's fortunes, seems quite meaningless now but has a classic Parchment sound whilst Death in Jerusalem's freaky electronic effects make it a psych folk classic.

John Pac told Buzz interviewer Danny Smith: "I think it's wrong to trick people into the concert and then to bang the gospel at them. If the music is related to their lives, they're prepared to listen."

Danny Smith wrote: "Parchment's struggle to retain their artistic integrity has caused concern - even doubts and rumours about their Christian commitment."

Pac responded: "People might feel we've compromised but that's not so..."

Curiously the water-coloured sunset cover was echoed by Sue Mack's band River on their second album Rise Like the Sun.

Here's the review that Buzz could have written: "A mould-breaking second album from our greatest band. You don't think it's a Christian album? Check out the ballad Gift and the barnstorming Death in Jerusalem. The album shows the band at their song-writing best with profound and poetic lyrics in songs such as You are My Morning and sing-a-long melodies on songs like Butterfly. Are Parchment still a folk band? This is as much pop as folk but there are still the distinctive harmonies, the mandolin, the dobro and the furiously played acoustic guitars.This is very much a road album, a bunch of musicians leaving their native Liverpool to see the wider world. But will it break the band out of the Christian ghetto? We fear not but hope they won't give up and will continue to write and record innovative and cutting edge music."

Here is that BUZZ interview in full from January 1974.


Anonymous said...

Back in 1989, I found "Hollywood Sunset" by chance at a record fair. I'd actually gone to hunt down a rare record by Trapeze and when I found it I was in such a good mood that I thought I'd splash a bit and ended up with another Trapeze Lp, Grand Funk Railroad's first live album ( rather inventively titled "Live album"), two by one of the early Jesus rockers called Randy Matthews and this one, all on a whim - a whim I have never regretted as I still have all of them !!
I'm not sure exactly what I expected of Parchment as my purchase of the album was simply an afterthought. Well, when I played it, I thought it was very good and the more I've played it over the years, the better it has gotten to these ears. Every one of it's 12 tracks is superb ( or at the very least, very good ), with lovely melodies at a premium and littered all over the place. While it's true that the "christian" content isn't obvious ( I'd only heard fleetingly of Parchment from an offhand comment I half remembered from a book I'd read about two years previous ), along with that other tumultuous release of '73, "So long ago the garden", it for me is an album that no one but a person in a relationship with the triune God could have made. "Insider references" abound, but in a way that doesn't bang a person who has not yet embraced Christ or someone athiestic over the head. In their interview that's reproduced here, they made the crucial point that it becomes false and no longer true to one's art if every song must be "about" God or Jesus and I agree with them, even now in 2007. While I most definitely do love alot of the Jesus music (for want of a better phrase - personally though I use that phrase or variations of it, it kind of leaves me cold ) that came circa '67-'83, I've long felt that while, musically, lots of it still is great, lyrically, most of it is trite, shallow and predictable. Now, that does not prevent me from liking lots of it ( I mean, I dig the Beatles, Stones and zeppelin and tons of bands of almost every genre and every band has their share of crappy lyrics framed within a great song.....) but it is both noticeable and refreshing when an artist that is a lover of Christ turns in good songs with good lyrics. They're not necessarilly better, some are, some aren't. It's personal choice. On Hollywood Sunset, Parchment turn in an excellent set of lyrics, filled with humour, darkness, love, emotion, vision, mystery, reality and downright quirkiness.
Musically fantastic, whether played sensitively or with pounding acoustic aggression, the singing and harmonies are grand; the title track has one of the great memorable choruses of the 70s; the way "Hard road", with it's quirky feel segues into the hauntingly gorgeous and mystical "Lovely touching" to bring about a sudden change of mood is inspirational. Both songs do possess a christian underbelly but you'd have to be one (or know one) to realize it; "Dobbie's song" likewise; in fact, I'd say that about every song to a greater or lesser degree. As christians, we've unfortunately become so insecure with art and so secure in propaganda that many of us either lost or have lost the ability to see God in art or that which isn't readilly spelled out for us. Not to mention the willingness to just enjoy someone's work . Back to "Dobbie" for a moment, the way the words are made to scan within the tune is priceless, wonderful songwriting. "Get on the road" sounds like a good old pub rabble rouser while "Getting out of this town" and "Death in Jerusalem" are psychy slabs that certainly perk up the eyebrows !!
There are many, many worthwhile moments on the album and I, for one, expect my copy to outlast me...{grimtraveller}.

pf said...

Thanks for these comments, grimtraveller. Unsurprisingly, I agree with pretty well everything you say. A remarkable album by an extraordinary band! To be fair, there was also remarkable song writing in the UK by the likes of Graham Kendrick and Lou Hayles.

Anonymous said...

Hi pf,
I've not heard Lou's solo stuff, only the stuff she did with the band she played with so I couldn't comment, but I certainly agree with you about Graham Kendrick. I think that his post '85 reputation as a "worship leader/ songwriter" has been so immense and is so lionised that it completely overshadows the magnificent songs that he wrote or performed on between '69 and '82. I mean, I do really admire some of his (for want of a better word) 'worship' stuff, there's some neat songs there. But the tracks that he did on his largely unknown LPs like 'Cresta Run' and some of his 70s albums, well, here was a great talent, a thoughtful and entertaining writer and he had that rare knack of being able to write about Jesus without a hint of triteness, corniness or cliche and he always maintained depth. So it could be done ! {grimtraveller}.

pf said...

Loy Hayles' solo album, Don't Hide Away, is available at Ancient Star Song.

Her song-writing was complex and melodic - I'm not sure about the lyrics, I'd like to see a lyric sheet. I share your concern about artists putting some work, or even poetry, into the words - and have hopes of launching a separate project on this.

Patrick Fiset said...

It is NOT available at Ancient Star Song.
ZIP corrupt.
Please someone post this!

Patrick Fiset said...

Zip for Lou Hayles will be repair!

Please post a download link for "Hollywood Sunset"!

pf said...

Hi Patrick. We don't do downloads on this site, partly because most Parchment tracks are available on the compilation CD. Hollywood Sunset is quite easy to obtain on the second hand vinyl market and there may be CD versions around too.

All the tracks are available on the Simply...Parchment CD also although it's best to listen to the album in its original form.