Thursday, July 17, 2008

John Pantry

John Pantry was the production genius who worked on all four Parchment albums. He had developed his skills in parallel with the music industry in the 1960s, working with some of the big names of the era, most notably, I think, the Small Faces and the early (pre-disco) Bee Gees and enjoys semi-legendary status amongst fans of the genre.

Undoubtedly he played a big part in shaping Parchment's recorded sound. I've referred to him a few times over the last few years but had avoid a specific posting for fear of getting crucial details wrong. For instance I knew that Light Up the Fire was his first Christian music album but had heard he became a Christian after working on it. John went on to be a key player in Christian music, producing dozens of albums and launching as a solo artist and song-writer in his own right. He then achieved ordination in the Church of England before returning to music as a radio presenter with Premier Radio.

Premier has now posted a fairly full biography and that states that Pantry was converted before working on Light Up the Fire - so I stand corrected.

Other notable productions that he worked on included version two of Water Into Wine Band's Hill Climbing for Beginners - the US version - and several Grapevine albums, such as Unity's Changes, and Salt's Beyond a Song. Pre-Grapevine he had done amazing work on Dave and Dana's Come on In and the couple paid tribute to him with a terrific and passionate version of his song 'Empty-Handed' on their Grapevine album Morning Star.

Another interesting and early example of his work, Canaan, released on the Dovetail label, has been posted on the Ancient Star Song recently. The style of the band was country rock but the review refers to the "acid guitar" of the album. This was Pantry all over and it was a style ideal for the emerging Christian music scene in Britain as well as for the late 60s psychedelic music scene. One of his tricks was to pull out and highlight shortish instrumental rifts, enabling the listener to appreciate great musicianship. Think of all those great mandolin licks on the Parchment albums. Most studios, especially the Christian ones, buried these invidual sounds not having the skills or will to display them in the time constraints of vinyl. The cry of "we can't hear the words" didn't apply as Pantry knew how to balance singing with instruments.

So by the time Pac, Yates-Round and McClellan were producing for Grapevine they had learnt from a master.

Pantry's solo music style was very much man and piano, Elton John style, not necessarily to everyone's taste, but he was/is a talented song-writer. There's a discography and other information here at CrossRhythms, including a link to the Canaan story.