Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ry Cooder

The 'lost album' reveals the extent that Parchment MkII was influenced by Ry Cooder, who seems best described as a country/blues/folk musician.

The album contains two songs How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live and also Denomination Blues, which he popularised. The first was written in 1929 by "Blind" Alfred Reed and the second by Washington Phillips.

Denomination Blues was re-recorded for Shamblejam. Then for Rehearsal for a Reunion the band recorded Jesus on the Mainline, another song taken up by Ry Cooder.

So here's a great nine-minute video of Cooder performing Poor Man. I promise you the Parchment version is also terrific - and it's nothing at all like this.

And here's Cooder's version of Jesus on the Mainline:

To complete the circle Cooder has recently performed with gospel singer Mavis Staples, who recently headlined for Roundabout 2008 in Liverpool.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lost album - full tracklisting

This is the tracklisting of the copy of the lost album that has surfaced. It might not have been released like this, had it been issued by Pye in 1974/5, and might well not be released in this form finally.

Song authors are attached where known. At a guess I would say You Mean a Lot to Me and A Matter of Time are Sue McClellan compositions:

1/ Money Honey (Jesse Stone)
2/ Wild, Wild Woman
3/ I Really Don't Mind
4/ Denomination Blues (Washington Phillips)
5/ Chicago North Western (Juicy Lucy)
6/ Don't Like Being Away/Fast Train (John Pac/Band)
7/ Morning Love, Morning Freedom
8/ How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live (Ry Cooder/ Alfred Reed)
9/ Old Tom Cat
10/ You Mean a Lot to Me
11/ We're Over Here
12/ People and Places (Band)
13/ A Matter of Time

Band members: John Pac, Sue McClellan, Jeff Crow

I've found several songs with the same name as Old Tom Cat and Wild, Wild Woman but none seem to be the same ones as on this album. So they may be original compositions.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

On first hearing the lost album

There have been moments of sheer undiluted pleasure, if not joy, over the last few years.

One of those was hearing Parchment's "lost" single You Were on My Mind for the first time. A second was hearing River's You Are There followed one after the other by that band's CDs.

The first hearing of Caedmon and Whitsuntide Easter comes close to this.

As does the unique experience of being privileged to be one of the first people to hear the lost third Parchment album that was never released by Pye.

It's surprising!

But only when you consider each of Parchment's albums had very different styles. Let's face it, they were one of those bands you never knew quite what to expect with each album, especially once you'd heard Light Up the Fire, the album. You'd listen to each one, waiting for the amazing sounds of the original album and not quite hearing them - yet on further listenings they'd be there, the mandolin, the harmonies, the folkie roots, Sue's backing vocals, John Pantry's subtle, clever production techniques.

And by the second listening you are hooked...

At first hearing, it's very country rock. The rhythm guitar is prominent in a way you don't hear in the band's other albums. By the second hearing, you realise it could be another Parchment great - an album which blends their distinctive sound and talents with bold adventures into a particular musical style.

Side 2 (or the second half) is terrific! We're Over Here sounds like an echo of Trinity Folk's folk-club roots. Old Tom Cat is a great prog folk track. And there's a radically different version of People and Places from the one released, sometime later, on Rehearsal for a Reunion. And the final track is amazing - it's just too short and needs a good fade-out.

Side 1 sounds, at first, a little like a pub band. Quite a lot of other people's songs. There's Denomination Blues, re-released on Shamblejam with slightly different production. Imagine too their  version of Ry Cooder's Poor Man.

What I've heard has an unfinished, bootleg feel - for instance not much of an intro to the album, if the track ordering is correct. Most of the tracks are quite short - few pass three minutes and some of the best songs could do with more fade-out.

I understand a copy was found on a cassette tape - so it's still not the master tape that John Pac had been searching for and may affect any decision about releasing it on CD. To my untutored ear it still sounds pretty good.

No doubt there are other issues affecting a release, copyrights, permissions - it could take a while.

My guess is that John must be thinking of a Simply...Parchment Part 2 - use most of these tracks, leave out the least original ones and throw in classics like Working Man, Zip Bam Boo, Golden Game and Shine on Me that were omitted from Simply..Parchment.

Full track-listing to follow and I hope in due course to get the go-ahead to post some samples of the music. The band for this album was John Pac, Sue McClellan, Jeff Crow.

This was the posting which detailed John Pac's original recollections about this album.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The poet and the elephant foot

A fascinating revelation gives a reason to mention another personality from this era. Our recent link to a review of Shamblejam, Parchment's third album, has thrown up a comment on the other site from punk rockster Bill Mason. Bill mentions that the cover shots for Shamblejam were taken in the London home of poet Stewart Henderson.

The picture shows Brian Smith, Sue McClellan and John Pac in settings which seem to have been lifted from the Victorian age. If you had the US version you probably only had the cover shot - I think it was a single sleeve album. The British gatefold version uses photographs front, back and inside with paraphernalia shots of paraphernalia such as a model elephant and lampstand. As always with this band, the artwork seemed to work brilliantly, reflecting in this case the hippy, folky roots of the music. Nowadays you wonder what they thought they were doing with an elephant-foot stool and a leopard-skin rug on an album which featured songs such as "Green Psalm".

And so to Stewart Henderson. It always seemed he must be closely connected with Parchment. Both came from Liverpool although there is no mention of Henderson having been involved in the Roundabout arts project. Henderson produced poetry similar in kind to the Mersey Beat poets, fun, simple in language, witty, short and thought-provoking. It seemed too good to be true that the Mersey region which had produced Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten could produce another equally talented poet. Yet it wasn't. In 1975 the Dovetail label issued an album of his poems Whose Idea of Fun is a Nightmare, produced by John Pantry . Henderson went on to have a successful career as a journalist, a broadcaster and a poet - although like others of his contemporaries his recent output seems to have been aimed more at childen and the schools market than anything else.

Nightmare was recently posted by the Ancient Star Song blog.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A curiosity

This version of the Light Up the Fire single has just gone under the hammer on ebay from a Spanish seller. There's a curious thing about it - the happy smiling faces on the front are not Parchment. They look like an early 70s pop or rock band. Does anybody know who they are?

Presumably somebody got their instructions mixed up at the printers. An oddity.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Grapevine's first album

Thornill, Thwaites and Coe Ride! Ride! 1976. Producer: John Pac. GRV101
Grapevine's first album was a popular Methodist musical that in 1976 made its London West End debut at the Westminster Theatre - and seems to have quite a story behind it. The musical, based on a story about John Wesley in London was written by Alan Thornhill, a Methodist minister who was also an established playwright. The music was provided by a young Australian musician Penelope Thwaites.

When it gained a place at a prestigious London theatre, the musical was placed in the hands of a notable director Peter Coe, who had been responsible for the first staging of Oliver! Cast members included Caroline Villiers, Gordon Gostelow, Brendan Barry, Richard Warner, Jeremy Anthony, Kim Goody, Raymond Skipp, Abby Hadfield and Jane Martin.

The recording must have been a coup for the new label. Sales were guaranteed and the aim was to reproduce the atmosphere of a West End musical.

And that was when the trouble began. There appears to have been some dispute between Alan Thornhill and Peter Coe over the staging of the show. The album reflects Peter Coe's direction and this seems to have included adding songs to the score. Thornhill's papers have been collected by Wheaton University, USA, and the catalogue gives a flavour of the correspondence that ensued.
More recently a new version of the musical was published and a CD released. The publishers of the new version Bardic Music state: "Recordings and publications connected with the 1976 London production are no longer sanctioned for use and are therefore in breach of current copyright." The copyright issue is being pursued with some seriousness as the Ancient Star Song blog discovered when it tried to post the Grapevine album. Penelope Thwaites posted on the Star Song setting out some of the background. None of this prevents interested listeners from buying second hand copies of the Grapevine album and they are still in circulation.

I'm no great fan of musicals but I quite enjoyed the vinyl version. And was that a mandolin I hear on some of the tracks?

Roundabout reunion

Well, we missed the Roundabout Reunion event.

It took place a month ago on July 5th. Roundabout was the Christian arts movement in Liverpool in the 60s/70s that seems to have spawned Trinity Folk, Parchment, Reynard. Roundabout 2008 has been endeavouring to catch the spirit for the city's European Capital of Culture Year.

The reunion featured Parchment founder member Keith Rycroft along with his cousin Dave Rycroft, who had played with Reynard.

it also featured the reconstituted Roundabout theatre company and local rising star Rachael Wright. She now has her own website and you can sample her music here.

Did anybody attend? How did it go?