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Archive for October 9th, 2014

Now Sounds Celebrates 50th Release With Paul Parrish’s Trippy “Forest”

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Paul Parrish - ForestOn a map of the psychedelic landscape, down a ways from the windmills of your mind and not too far from Strawberry Fields, somewhere between Itchycoo and MacArthur Parks, you might find the forest of Paul Parrish’s mind. The Michigan native could be best remembered for a couple of singer-songwriter albums on the Reprise and ABC labels in the 1970s, or as one-half of Parrish and Toppano in the 1980s…or perhaps as the lead vocalist of The Brady Bunch theme during the sitcom’s first season! But before all that, Parrish signed with MGM’s short-lived Music Factory label for a 1968 one-off: The Forest of My Mind. Over its twelve tracks, the troubadour delivered psychedelia ripe for the flower-power generation, with images of nature, seasons, animals and the elements recurring on almost every track and in many of the song titles, too. This soft throwback to a time when everything was beautiful – and a little mysterious, too – has just arrived in a beautifully crafted reissue from Now Sounds, rescued from the dustbins of vinyl obscurity and given a new, sparkling lease on life.

The Forest of My Mind, recorded at Tera Shirma Studios, may be one of the least Detroit-esque albums to come out of the Motor City as it by and large steered clear of R&B. So it might come as a surprise to some to find that veterans of Motown house band The Funk Brothers, including drummer Uriel Jones and bassist Bob Babbitt, played the exquisite arrangements here. Those charts came courtesy of the team of guitarist Dennis Coffey (a Funk Brother himself) and Mike Theodore, the same duo responsible for arranging and producing Sixto Rodriguez’s 1970 Cold Fact. Rodriguez melded folk with psychedelia and funk, and so did Paul Parrish, though with a quite different lyrical sensibility. The luscious production on Forest was handled by Clay McMurray, producer of Spyder Turner’s offbeat rendition of “Stand by Me.” Hired by Motown to be part of its quality control department, McMurray worked his way up to producer, and in 1971, he co-wrote and helmed Gladys Knight and the Pips’ R&B No. 1 “If I Were Your Woman.” Soon, further work came from The Temptations, The Spinners, and The Supremes, all heavy hitters in the Motown stable. Yet with Parrish, McMurray tapped into a Donovan-esque delicacy, dappled with sunshine.

On the twelve melodic nuggets on The Forest of My Mind, the timbre of Parrish’s voice most closely recalls Micky Dolenz’s, though there are slight echoes of Paul Simon and others throughout. The recurring pastoral imagery gives the whole project the feel of a song cycle. Taut guitar lines intertwine with atmospheric, plucked strings and spacey flute (think Charles Lloyd on “Feel Flows” and you get the idea) on “English Sparrows,” the album’s evocative opening track. The catchy title track is even funkier. Years before Billy Joel had a “heart attack-ack-ack-ack,” Parrish was inviting listeners to the “forest of his mi-i-i-i-ind” with far-out blasts of electric guitar. The song’s baroque outro illustrates just how many influences Parrish was incorporating into his music; that classical-inspired style comes to the fore on the storybook fantasy of “The Painter (Who Lives in the Cellar).” Singing of one who “lives within a shifting world of colors,” Parrish could well be describing himself. The lysergic, Donovan-esque “Dialogue of Wind and Lover” and “The White Birds (Return to Warm Seas)” both betray an Eastern influence in the arrangements; the latter has a particularly spellbinding harpsichord part.

You’re not out of the forest yet!  Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 9, 2014 at 14:03

Posted in News, Paul Parrish, Reissues, Reviews

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Cherry Red Celebrates “Godfather of Ska” Laurel Aitken With Albums Box

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Laurel Aitken BoxBorn in Cuba of mixed Jamaican and Cuban descent as Lorenzo Aitken, singer Laurel Aitken (1927-2005) is today remembered as “The Godfather of Ska.” The precursor to reggae, ska drew from Caribbean styles like calypso and mento as well as from American jazz and R&B; by the early 1960s, it was the predominant style of music in Jamaica. Cherry Red Records and Pressure Drop have recently collected the seminal early recordings of Laurel Aitken in a new 5-CD box set. Aitken’s Original Albums Collection features four rare albums and a fifth disc of bonus singles and non-LP rarities:

  • Ska with Laurel (1966)
  • Laurel Aitken Says Fire (1967)
  • Scandal in a Brixton Market (with Girlie) (1969)
  • The High Priest of Reggae (1970)
  • Skinhead Train: 1960s Singles and Rarities

When Aitken arrived in Brixton, London, in the early 1960s, he was already an established artist in his home of Jamaica where he and his family had settled in the late 1930s. Aitken had begun singing in the mento style (a largely acoustic, folk-based idiom) in the 1950s, first for the Jamaican Tourist Board and later as a popular nightclub entertainer. His 1958 single “Boogie in My Bones” b/w “Little Sheila” was one of the first records produced by future Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and is also said to be the first Jamaican pop record to be released in the United Kingdom.

Once settled in Brixton, Aitken began recording for the Blue Beat label, releasing fifteen singles before moving back to Jamaica in 1963. After continuing to record there with fellow ska pioneer Arthur “Duke” Reid, he returned to the U.K. and recorded for the Pama label. Aitken was an early proponent of the “D.I.Y.” style, with the homemade sound of his records helping them to stand out in the onslaught of early rock and roll. He went on to record for Island, Rio, Doctor Bird, Trojan and other labels, spreading the gospel of ska and Jamaican music far beyond the confines of Brixton (even today still an area with a large Caribbean population). An innate showman, Aitken took the alter ego of “King Horror,” performing under the guises of characters such as “The Loch Ness Monster”, “Dracula, Prince of Darkness,” and “The Hole.” In the 1970s, he relocated to Leicester, and continued to perform and record over the years, enjoying the 2 Tone ska resurgence and even scoring a No. 60 pop hit in 1980 in the U.K. with “Rudi Got Married.”

After the jump: what will you find inside the box set? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 9, 2014 at 10:05