Friday, 23 October 2015

Duncan Parsons - C:Ore

Combining faith & music (especially rock music) has proved to be a difficult and dangerous road for many to travel, particularly on this side of the Atlantic. Whereas in the States it is slightly more acceptable to invoke the name of Jesus in your songs, for the British, with our caricature of reserve and not wanting to cause offence, we tend to fight shy of it - unless it's in a purely 'religious' context.

Progressive rock, with its roots in the counter-culture of the 1960s, is more the place to find references to eastern philosophies or pagan rites, than it is orthodox Christianity. There are, of course, exceptions to this: Neal Morse, formerly of Spock's Beard and now of Transatlantic & Flying Colours, being the obvious case in point. His overt approach to singing his faith has won him a number of admirers, and also quite a few detractors, who would like him to leave the 'God-bothering' out of his music.

Song-writers, of course, write and sing about what's important to them, what fires them, what inspires them, and in this album Duncan Parsons wears his faith clearly on his sleeve (though other reviewers I've read seem to have missed this). The track titles are interesting, too, in that they are all single word titles, and they are lettered rather than numbered. That lettering actually gives the songs a subtle new meaning: King becomes Aching (A:King); Lief becomes Belief (B:Lief) etc.

The music is mostly played by Parsons, who covers a variety of guitars, basses, keyboards, alongside drums & percussion, vocals and ephemera such as stylophone, musical saw and Jaw harp. He is joined by a number of other musicians, notably John & Steve Hackett (playing harmonica), Nick Fletcher and Ton Scherpenzeel. Stylistically the tunes veer from standard rock to a more progressive feel, with odd time signatures, to a more folky edge on C:All. Duncan's vocals are not perhaps as strong as they could be, but they seem to fit the nature of the material well. Searching songs need a searching voice.

These are songs which tackle what it means to be a believer today: not primarily from a credal position, but from that of lifestyle and discipleship - how we live as people of faith. Yes, there are issues of devotion and worship, but this is seen as much in our service of others as in our piety & prayers.

For those who have no professed faith, I would still commend this collection to you. Musically it has much to commend it, drawing as it does from the depths of the English progressive tradition - the Canterbury scene, Peter Hammil, Stackridge, among others - and the instrumental passages, especially those featuring John Hackett's flute, are particularly uplifting.

You can get hold of the album through Duncan's website here.