19 Oct 2014

Album Review: Paul Parrish "The Forest of My Mind"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Detroit may seem like an unlikely point of origin for such a heavily orchestrated piece of psychedelia, but that's exactly where Paul Parrish's debut was put together in 1968, where it would have seemed very out of place amongst all of the Motown and proto-Detroit Rock City releases of the time.

"The Forest of My Mind" is cherished among collectors, and not having heard anything from it before this arrived in the post, I semi-suspected its reputation to have been elevated by its scarcity, rather than its quality, but this is one lost classic that very nearly lives up to the tag.

Produced by Clay McMurray, featuring a fine selection of Motown's Funk Brothers affiliated musicians, and arranged by Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore (who refined a lot of what they do here when they produced Rodriguez's "Cold Fact" in 1970), "The Forest of My Mind" is a unique meeting of baroque, psychedelic pop, English chamber arrangements (courtesy of Coffey who was studying classics at the time), and light soul.

And while it might be pushing things to suggest that this is a bit of a "Cold Fact", it's at the very least a "Coming From Reality" in terms of quality. Donovan comparisons seem to be a common theme amongst those who discuss this album, and while Parrish himself sounds very little like the Don, the arrangements here certainly find a comfortable middle ground between the lush psychedelia of the "Sunshine Superman" album and its swinging "Mellow Yellow" followup, and it's not too much of a push to suggest that those who enjoy that period of Donovan will find a lot to enjoy here.

McMurray insisted on a couple of covers which see the quality dip a little. "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" (which Parrish admits he was reluctant to record, in the excellent sleevenotes) is a lifeless arrangement with an uncommitted performance from Parrish. The Holland-Dozier-Holland classic "I Can't Help Myself" fares better, but largely due to a superior arrangement, rather than the appropriateness of the material for Parrish.

Parrish's originals on the other hand are uniformly excellent, and a great match for the arrangements, which could easily outshine lesser material. The title track has the most vocal support among collectors, and it's certainly the most overtly psychedelic track on offer here - both lyrically and musically - but the real lost classic to me is "The Painter", underpinned by an inventive and propulsive string arrangement.

One can't help but feel that if it weren't for the overtly psychedelic nature of the music here, that it would have been a serious contender for release by Light in the Attic. So, much more consistent than a number of debuts of the era, and not far from a classic, with plenty of high points.

Now Sound's excellent CD reissue (their fiftieth release, and probably their best so far) also includes several excellent, punchy mono mixes which offer a substantially different listening experience to the more expansive stereo mixes found on the album.

Available here on CD.

You can stream the full album here if you require further arm twisting:

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