(1972) Sam Parry – If Sadness Could Sing
Sleeve design and photography: Mick Rock
Availability: long deleted by Argo; released on CD by Small Town (CAMD1), but I reckon the label’s defunct. Re-released by South Korean label Big Pink Music in June 2010 and then by Japanese label Vivid in late November 2010 – prices between $20 and £55. Before you order, though, check out the comments at the bottom of this post.
Sam Parry – vocals, guitar
Brian Daly – 12 and 6-string guitars
Dave Moses – bass guitar
1 The day I met my lord
2 If sadness could sing
3 What’s a gambler to do?
4 Those summer days are over
5 Everybody knows I do
A mix of finger-picking folky (“puttin’ on my walkin’ shoes”) introspection and up-tempo harmonica blues from Welsh singer-songwriter Sam Parry. Very much of its time – in a Ritchie Havens/Ralph McTell stylee (no criticism). He’s got a good voice and plays a mean moothie. As far as I know, this was the only album he recorded.
I hadn’t been able to find out anything about Sam Parry, then out of the blue (well, out of Brittany) popped Andrew Hawkey.
“Sam used to claim (and still does) that he didn’t really understand where the music was coming from and that he was being visited by some kind of spirit,” says Andrew. “I can vouch for the fact that when he was playing, he would go into a sort of trance, from which he’d wake, with expressions of mild surprise, at the end of a song.”
Andrew had got to know Sam after moving to Wales to become a hippie in 1973.
“I was renting a house in a tiny village in the hills near Aberystwyth called Trefenter. Sam and his then-partner, Sue, lived in a primitive cottage close by, and we struck up a friendship – I was playing some guitar and doing some song-writing at the time, and Sam and I used to ‘jam’ together … we even travelled all the way down to Hampshire to do a folk club gig…
“Sam was an extraordinary self-taught player, and used open tunings of his own invention, in the style of John Martyn. All the harmonica playing on the LP is recorded live, played in a harness: fantastic breath control!”
“There were quite a few tales about Sam in circulation at the time: one was that he’d been lined up to appear on TV’s Opportunity Knocks, and that it would be a foregone conclusion that he’d win! Sam being Sam, it never happened; another was that at some stage Jack Bruce was keen to work with him, possibly to record, but Sam pushed the opportunity away…”
Andrew says he has no idea as to how Argo cottoned on to Sam and decided to do the album.
“Sam was pretty disorganized, had no management, and so any gig bookings were pretty casually arranged, I think…I have a hunch he may have made the odd foray to London, and perhaps played informally at Les Cousins club. I remember him saying once that that he’d seen Keith Christmas play, and liked what he was doing. He also used to say that he only owned one record – John McLaughlin’s ‘Inner Mounting Flame’.
Long-gone days in the hills
“If Sadness Could Sing is his sole album, though he did contribute some harmonica on a couple of tracks of an album I recorded and produced in a small local studio (Solar Sound Studios at Llanrhystud) for Strachan & Griffiths on the SoSo label in around 1984. It was as if, rather than losing interest in playing, the gift peaked in 1972-3, and then gradually deserted him. He moved away from music and by around 1976 – after dabbling with flute and sax for a while but never getting very far – he’d more or less stopped playing.
“He became an antiques dealer and horologist in the Aberystwyth area in the 80s and still lives in the mid-Wales coastal area with his wife and daughters. I still bump into him occasionally, and he talks wistfully about playing again, but I somehow doubt he’ll get around to it, with his work and family commitments.
“I still love the record, and it brings back the whole mood of those long-gone days in the hills, in our draughty cottages with sheep grazing all around…”
(Thanks to Andrew for that).
Dave Moses, who plays bass here, also turned up in 1971 on another Argo folk album, Marie Little’s much sought-after Factory Girl. There’s a bit about him on the post for that album here.
Brian Daly. Bryan Daley. Bryan Daly. Brian Daley. I’ve kept coming across the names over the years. All acoustic 6 and 12-string guitarists. Were there really four of them? Or were the compilers of sleeve notes a bit slapdash with their spelling?
I’m trying to sort it out, but, in the meantime, if it’s all the same person he had a pretty remarkable career, including the following appearances (and it’s only scratching the surface):
Early/mid 50s – Ewan MacColl 78s issued by Topic and LPs issued by Riverside from 1953-56; Alan Lomax’s Ramblers skiffle group
Late 50s/early 60s – BBC-MacColl-Seeger-Parker Radio Ballads
Late 50s – Johnny (Last Train to San Fernando) Duncan’s original backing group; backing bands on late-50s pop-rock TV shows like Boy Meets Girls; backing band for Gene Vincent alongside Joe Brown and Eric Ford
1960s – recording session guitar stalwart throughout the decade alongside guitar legends like Jim Sullivan, Eric Ford, Judd Proctor, Jimmy Page, Vic Flick…appeared on tracks for people like Jackie de Shannon (‘What the World Needs Now’), The Batchelors, Tony Hatch, Burt Bacharach, Mark Wirtz…
1963 – Cy Grant’s LP ‘Folk Songs and Cool Songs’
1971 – Mary Hopkin’s Earth Song LP on Apple, along with Ralph McTell and Dave Cousins; John Schroeder’s ‘Dylan Vibrations’ album, along with Clem Cattini and Ricky Wakeman (before he dropped the Y); Julie Covington’s The Beautiful Changes; Roy Budd’s soundtrack for cult film Get Carter, with bassist and producer Jeff Cline (Clyne – it’s easy to get those Ys and Is mixed up – put in an appearance on an Argo album too, the 1972 Argo folk super-group extravaganza Giles Farnaby’s Dream Band)
1972 – Fishbaugh, Fishbaugh and Zorn’s eponymous CBS album; Christopher Neil’s RAK album Where I Belong, and Bryan Daly The Velvet Guitar of Bryan Daly on Decca Phase 4 Stereo with the London Festival Orchestra
Late 1970s – Albums by German Christian composer and songwriter Siegfried Fietz
1979 – Daly returns to Argo, playing guitar on the soundtrack of Tarka the Otter featuring, among others, Peter Ustinov and Tommy Reilly (Argo ZSW 613)
1980s – Composed and played music (including the title theme) for Postman Pat and other kids’ TV programmes like Gran and Bertha. In the late 90s, Daly was still writing and playing for the kids’ TV show Tom and Vicky
If you can help verify that it’s all one and the same man, get in touch. Would be good to have as full a discography as possible somewhere on the web for posterity.