Parsons; Duncan: Abandoned Buidings
Duncan Parsons' biography reads as that of a "nearly man", with tutelage at the hands of the hugely respected percussion master Bill Bruford preceding a polite refusal from Anthony Phillips (Genesis) at suggestions to work together. Before producing music that caught the ear of a certain Rick Wakeman, without much coming of the results. For all those famous skirmishes the only notable guest spots on this gentle progressive rock album, that would appear to be Parsons' first, is that of John Hackett (brother of Steve) and Raul D'Oliveira (Mike Oldfield, Elton John and ehhhh..... Wham!). Now after spending quite some time with this album, I can't help but wonder if the lack of "star talent" that seems to be so liberally spread across releases by all and sundry these days is actually Abandoned Buildings strongest point, or its fatal flaw. Either way, there's no disguising that this slightly overlong release is one man's vision, Parsons himself playing drums, guitar, mandolin, keyboards and bass, as well as, I presume, singing. Although a 130 strong voice choir and world music drum ensemble also show up at the album's conclusion!
For reference points, Parsons himself picks out the likes of Steely Dan, Alan Parsons, Gentle Giant, 10CC and crucially the Canterbury Scene and while all of those are obviously correct, personally what this whole album brings to mind is something crossing between the out and out storytelling to music of The Tangent and the raconteur meets revolutionist of Fish. Although without the instant jumping on points that both of those artists have in spades.
Parsons is a pleasant singer, lacking the character and enigmatic performance of, as mentioned, a Fish or Andy Tillison, instead utilising his almost pop-lite vocals without much in the way of insistence or force. Merely recounting this album's tales of falling and failing in love, rather than really giving the impression of taking you on a journey. Something that is a shame, as a sharp, varied voice would have raised the too pleasant, too straight forward themes to a far more lofty status. You see the thing is, Parsons writes catchy ditties and clever lyrics, he also possesses the ability to make (maybe overly) restrained ideas have more impact than first impressions would have you believe. However with no real variance or bite the whole experience can become just a little too forgettable. Imagine Martin Orford's wonderful The Old Road album without any of the memorable hooks, melody lines or choruses and you really won't be far away from the nice songs served up here. "If I Knock On Your Door", "Lavender Rose" or "Answerphone", the latter of which would love to be Supertramp, but just doesn't quite manage have the quirk to do so, all being pleasant, but all too readily forgettable.
It is all rather frustrating but mainly because there isn't a single moment on Abandoned Buildings that isn't well crafted or filled with endeavour. This is obviously an album where heart and soul has been poured into every note and on that level, it is truly impossible to criticise. Truth be told, while you're listening to it, the whole thing is pleasantly enjoyable, however whether there is enough character, or original features to entice you back to these particular Abandoned Buildings, I'm not so convinced.
1 Building Pt. 1: Overtures
2 Spring Cleaning
3 Walking On the Wall
4 If I Knock On Your Door
5 Wond'ring A'lowed
6 Tumblé D' Amour
7 Lavender Rose
8 Can't Stop
12 Glass Fortress
15 Sometimes I Talk to Ghosts
16 Footnote in Your Heart
18 Building, Pt. Ii: Closer
Added: April 17th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Duncan Parsons online
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