“New Indulgences from Industry Stalwarts. (Australian Musician)
“What we’ve got here is the smartest pop record for ages, full of hook-filled melodic songs”
(Jeff Glorfeld – Sound vault)
You will struggle to find many recently released Australian albums better than this one.” (This review)

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgences
This was album number one hundred and ten in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series was called
“Cream of The Crate “ and each review represented an album that I believed was of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

For this review I took an Aussie Cd from the shelf and if musical pedigree counts, and the two men that make up The Pardoners certainly have an impressive musical pedigree individually and together, then this album is certainly worthy of being considered as a one of my cream albums from the crate.

This album by The Pardoners is their second and is their 2011 release – Indulgences. It’s an Indie release by the guys and in fact is only available as a download, so it can either be put straight onto your iPod or other audio device, or if you wish, the tracks can be downloaded and burnt onto a CD as the artwork is also available for download. More on this later.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgences

It is a 12 track album with all tracks predominantly written by The Pardoners, who are Sam See and Glyn Mason, with credits given to Donnelly, Howson,McIver & Smith.

Album Track Listing

Track

Face Up

Composer

Mason

 

Backing vocals: Kevin Bennett, Judy Donnelly

Babushka See Elena: Jane Clifton
Backing vocals: Lindsay Field
Bass: Al Tarego
Moonlight Can Be My Friend Mason Backing vocals: Kevin Bennett
Give The Lady Some Respect See-Smith The Lady: Susie Ahern
Backing Vocals: Kevin Bennett, Lindsay Field
Bass: Craig Newman
This Torch I Carry For You See-Howson Bass: Craig Newman
Orange Sun Mason Bass: Al Tarego
Soaking Up a Summer Afternoon See-McIver Sousaphone: Aaron Richards
Lost In Transition Mason Bass: Terry Wilkins
Tough Love Mason Backing vocals: Lindsay Field
We’ll Kiss See-Howson Backing vocals: Lindsay Field
Planned Obsolescence Mason Backing vocals: Lindsay Field
Sousaphone: Aaron Richards
Tanqueray See-Donnelly Backing vocals: Lindsay Field, Judy Donnelly


cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgences

The story of The Pardoners is the story of two guys who have been involved in the mainstream of Australian music since the 1960’s. Glyn Mason started his music career in New Zealand with Larry’s Rebels, whilst Sam See’s music career commenced in Australia, with quite a story.

Speaking with Sam, he said, “I was a founder member of Sherbet. One interesting – to me – piece of rock trivia is I was in 3 Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds winning bands in a row – Flying Circus, Fraternity and Sherbet without ever having competed!”

Between them they have been in a veritable “who’s Who of music groups which as well as the current group – The Pardoners, includes:
The Rebels, Clapham Junction, Sherbet, Chain, Copperwine, Flying Circus, Fraternity, Ariel, Home, Goanna, John Farnham Band, Stockley, See and Mason, the Zarsoff Brothers.

More very recently they have providing vocal, guitar and keyboard backing as two of the members of the “super” group that so fantastically supported Glenn Shorrock and Bran Cadd, on their National Tour of Australia.

These two guys are far more than the members of the duo we know as The Pardoners, they a very close friends and this is a major factor in their ability to craft and present their own legendary music, whilst also providing Aussie audiences in live gigs with brilliant covers of music from a selection of artists around the world who have recorded from the mid 1960’s onward.

However, at this time we are focusing upon the music on this album!

Quite often the first track on any album will tell you, the listener, what you are in for. Track 1Face Up tells us immediately, that what we are going to be listening to is some very sweetly crafted music. What I tell you about this track in terms of its engineering and production absolutely applies to all the tracks on this album because there is much to like about this album, but consistency in its craftsmanship is certainly a main feature.

Sam See is not just a demanding and brilliant musician, he has a genuine “ear” for production, and that is something that doesn’t come easy to many musicians. A great musician must have skill and passion as well as a commitment to the piece of music to bring it alive. But when you are on the other side of the mixing desk it also demands something different.

The ability to remove yourself from the emotion of the music being played, to step back from the crafting of the piece and listen to it in an objective, yet “knowledgeable” way, and to be able to balance what the writer is trying to achieve with how the musicians interpret the piece and yet listen to it with an ear for the audience, is a set of skills not easily gained.

In order to provide a product that works on a full Hi Fi system as well through the small speakers of a car is a reason why producers and engineers are employed and why the best producers and engineers are worth their money. In this case, Sam is both a brilliant producer and a highly skilled engineer.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgencesSam See

Sam actually works in his own “home studio”. Now once that term that was once interpreted as being a studio for amateurs. This is no longer the case now with the advent of computerised equipment and excellently developed music production software, as well as recording software and smaller and sophisticated digital mixers and recorders.

It now means the artist, if he/she has the skill, can be in control of every element of the recording. Sam has shown on this Cd that he certainly has the skill and the ability to deliver a great recording.

I was privy to an early mix when the Cd was first being produced and that early mix blew me away. Then when I was able to then listen to the finished product I did so in amazement at some very small, even subtle alterations, that just bumped the production up to be as good as any I have heard from a large commercial production studio in Australia.

Even the group name, The Pardoners, has a story. I sought out that story on their web site, where it says, “As we recall it, in the Middle Ages Pardoners were licensed by the church to sell Papal Indulgences to the faithful. These indulgences were supposed to expiate the sins of the faithful. The irony was the Pardoners were often committing the same sins, by the bucketload, they were supposed to be pardoning.

So now we have some idea of the history that led up to this cd it’s time to unpackage it and give an honest appraisal.

Track number 1Face Up. This is a Glyn Mason track and it comes as no surprise that both the structure of the music and the structure of the words are excellent. Glyn stands tall among his peers when it comes to the construction of a piece of music. Like his fellow Pardoner, he doesn’t accept the credo of “near enough is good enough!” Glyn seems to be able to call upon all those years of experience that have flowed from The Rebels, through working with Chain and Ariel and all the experiences that followed.

This has been some journey for him and one where it is obvious that he built upon the knowledge gained through all those years of working with, what can simply described as – some of the best musicians in Australia.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgencesGlyn Mason

Glyn
has an amazing voice, expressive, full of character, powerful and it blends really quite beautifully with Sams voice – I guess that is a true measure of the quality of a vocal group.

With these guys it’s not a case of them having a great vocalist or two great vocalists, but that it is two fabulous voices that they blend beautifully. Glyn runs with the lead vocals on this track, with Sam providing the same “vocal foil” that we used to witness when Lennon supported McCartney and vice versa.

Yet while the delivery of vocals is one thing to have a well written set of lyrics is completely another thing. What is interesting about Glyn is that rather than simply sit back and be content with having developed the skill of constructing a song, he has also developed the skill of blending that ability with real and genuine meanings to his lyrics, and it is obvious that his lyrics are based upon his participation in and his observation of, life around him.

Face Up is a wonderful example of these skills as indeed we witness in the track Orange Sun, which I will talk about later.

So let’s share the track Face Up, because there is no better way of demonstrating the musical chemistry these two have, than by looking at a song that is written by Glyn, and bought very much alive with the engineering and production skills of Sam. Sam’s wife Judy, along with Kevin Bennett, provide backing vocals that just add that cream to the whole track.

He howls at the moon and he screams at the stars
He’s all wrung out
He pulls down his shirt just to cover the scars
When he’s too strung out
He swears he’ll recover the hunger he fights
And deep down he knows that two wrongs don’t make right
All the pain and the rain in his heart
That he hides from his life

She laughs at the moon and stares at the stars
But still cries alone
She’s working her tricks at the mid-city bars
And she’s never known
One man from another night after night
She’s finally discovered two wrongs don’t make right
All the feelings that run through her head
Like a train in the night

Like a slap on the face with the back of a hand
You can stay lying down or get up make a stand
There’s no one direction that’s all open plan
So Face up – to it
No rules in this life that come guaranteed
No easy way out or to get what you need
You have to let go now before you are truly free
So Face up – to it now

Don’t give up – don’t let go of your life
Face up to your fear
Hold on to the voice that is crying
And trying to survive

Like a slap on the face with the back of a hand
You can stay lying down or get up make a stand
There’s no one direction that’s all open plan
So Face up – to it
No rules in this life that come guaranteed
No easy way out or to get what you need
You have to let go now before you are truly free
So Face up – to it now

Face Up

It seems to me that one of the elements of a great album, as opposed to a good album, is that it surprises. Sam and Glyn have a knack of presenting us with the style of music that we enjoy, but, can also throw up the unexpected.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgencesSam cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgencesGlyn

 

If I said that that Track 2 Babushka was a “comedy” track, I would do it a disservice and you would expect a piece of music that might vacillate between amusing and embarrassing! So let me leave it as saying, you now can expect something “different” and you won’t be disappointed – and I bet you will still end up at the very least with a smile on your face.

We have all suffered the “pain” of spam as part of being connected on the net – and that includes adverts for things like Viagra and, offers of marriage (and other things) from some of the worlds most “beautiful women”, – as they portray themselves.

This track is a Sam See composition and it tells the story of a poor “sap” who gets such an invite from what we are told is a “Babushka”. It is indeed a very clever story from Sam. Through the media of an email we are introduced to a woman, who we might consider as a “dream woman”. Sam writes,
By the look of the pictures she wouldn’t half go
Blue-eyed, blonde-haired, Russian fox
Her body is so slender
She might just treat me tender
I would just surrender

Now I could share with you what this “Babushka” really is . . . .but, no spoilers! You’ll find out yourself. I love the mandolin playing of Sam, who often features it in live performances by The Pardoners, and he gets a sound out of it that we can accept as being a balalaika.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgences

It is a well constructed story and Sams delivery is spot on although Jane Clifton almost steals the spotlight as “Elana” – the Russian Fox. What Sam has reminded us is, that just because a piece of music isn’t full of drama or psychological puzzles or even death and disaster, it can’t be memorable and beautiful.


Babushka

There is a certain excitement that builds up in a reviewer when faced with an album that simply doesn’t have a weak track! I clearly remember back in the 1960’s and certainly 1970’s (and possibly beyond), where we would buy albums with the expectation you might get two or three excellent tracks and maybe some good tracks and accepting the rest were “fill”.

Now certainly The Pardoners are by no means the first to present the listener with a smorgasbord of great tracks on an album, but by god while it is a joy to listen to it does make reviewing actually difficult because the reviewer is spoiled for choice and is faced with the dilemma of what tracks to examine in depth.

So it is that rather uneasily that I move past Tracks 3, 4 & 5Moonlight Can be My Friend – a beautiful Mason ballad that is featured in the video section, and with great regret bypass the See/Smith track, Give the Lady Some Respect (a great rockin’ track that pays homage to one of Australia’s greatest female singers – can you work out who?) and track 5This Torch I Carry For You, a track written by Sam in conjunction with well known (and loved) Melbourne Writer & Film & Stage Producer & Director Frank Howson.

That brings me to track number 6Orange Sun. I think this is a most incredibly powerful piece of music. As stated earlier, The Pardoners now work through their own indie label and the sad, almost criminal fact of life is that unless you are tied to a major label, you don’t get airplay on commercial radio.

Under any other circumstance where airplay was made available, this would be a major hit. It is simply a great composition that has been brilliantly sung, played and recorded.

OK, that’s a big statement about it having all the elements of a big hit. But I come back to my belief that Glyn Mason is a seriously talented writer who is able to catch a moment and suspend it in a piece of music. He has obviously crafted the construction of the music with the same care as he did with his words.

The arrangement (which I suspect has Sam’s finger prints all over it), has not just resulted in a piece of dramatic music, but a piece that both supplements and complements the nature of the words.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgencesI stand before the maker, my soul in blackened hands
The burning devil took everything and leveled all this land
Crops and home, hard Yakka built, years of hopes and dreams
Five thousand acres fence to fence and everything between

Now the fire is burning red and the fight has just begun
The sparks and smoke now fill my eyes
Beneath an orange sun

I’m a volunteer from New South Wales left my family on the farm
Headed south to Tatong when the Vics gave the alarm
Now we don’t need Jesus, we don’t need faith
Here there’s no faith to be found
Just a little help from Elvis might turn this thing around

Now the fire is burning red and the fight has just begun
The sparks and smoke now fill my eyes
Beneath an orange sun

Were all dead men walking and we heard our friend had died
It’s been a twelve hour shift along this line and we ain’t had time to cry
Three fronts closing in and still no sign of rain
And you’d hang that stupid bastard that put this land to flame

Now the fire is burning red and the fight has just begun
The sparks and smoke now fill my eyes
Beneath an orange sun

I say again, most certainly the delivery that Glyn puts into this track, is without doubt significantly augmented by Sam’s musicianship and production work.

The production on this track is as good as ANY track I have ever heard. If you have a good music system then put this track on and turn up the volume, and, sit back and be immersed in a musical experience.

The guitar work of Sam See has to be heard, this is a seriously great track and when you add the fact that the theme is something that all of Australia live with – the fear and reality of bushfires, it is a track that will strike a chord in all of us. The conclusion reminds us of the magnificent ‘run-out’ that the Beatles famously delivered in “A Day In The Life“, yet these guys allow it to mutate into their own powerful ending.


Orange Sun

I could have easily featured the final track on this CD – Tanqueray. One of the great things about a “great” album – which I did start to refer to earlier, is that one of the form of surprises that an album can contain is when a track that you listen to sometimes two or three times previously suddenly grabs you by the neck and gives you a good shake.

“Tanqueray” is in fact an English gin, and a quality gin at that. Written by Sam See and his wife Judy, who incidentally does backing vocals on this track, it tells a story of someone who hits rock bottom, possibly a place many of us have been in before.

However I step back a track for the final track to share with you.

Planned Obsolescence is a very cutting track cunningly disguised as a “light-hearted”, almost jocular track. Another Glyn Mason composition it is a track that I’m certain Vance Packard – the writer of the “Waste Makers” would readily have identified with.

The track starts with some very nice finger picking from Sam and then we are introduced to the sound of a sousaphone! Now that is an instrument we don’t hear often these days – played courtesy of Aaron Richards, it really provides a most interesting feel to the track.

The track really showcases, without fanfare, the great play and interplay of the “stringed” instruments that Glyn and Sam play, with some very nice overlaying and wonderful harmonies.

I should make mention that Sam & Glyn often play live with singer/guitarist Lindsay Field, and in fact Lindsay provides backing vocals on this and five other tracks on the album and his contribution needs to be acknowledged as he is a most accomplished musician/singer, in his own right.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgencesLindsay Field

Lindsays contribution to this track came as no surprise to me. At both live gigs as well as on this album, Lindsay has the great ability to find a vocal spot in between Glyn and Sam in such a way that he is not simply “fattening” out the vocals, but adding a distinct harmony to their already great harmonies.

Don’t overlook the importance of this in a modern musical world where vocal talents are largely irrelevant where in most music released, half decent vocal harmonies are not due to the class and ability of the vocalists but are largely due to the ability of technology to pitch, re-pitch and harmonise vocals.

But like “days of old”, when we look back at Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the like, we can recall clearly the energy and human uniqueness that real harmonies provide as opposed to technologically created ones and when Field, See & Mason sing together, we know we are hearing the real thing. You can witness this in the three video clips that are featured further down in this review.

You know, the life of an automobile is very much like that of a human in some ways. We both start out bright, shiny and new. According to Glyn in this track, the car wants open roads and open skies above – personally that scenario is one from my younger days that I delighted in, and, according to Glyn the car has, “Nothin’ but dreams and pistons poundin’ in my head...”

Well speaking for myself and possibly on behalf of many of you, there were many dreams and actions poundin’ in my head as a young man when the world and myself was fresh, bright, shiny and new.

I actually wondered if Glyn was drawing a parallel, so asked him and it was no surprise when he confirmed it. he told me that in fact as the song develops this dual reference should become even more apparent.


Planned Obsolescence

Sam and Glyn continue to play as The Pardoners in and around Melbourne, as well as with Lindsay Field as, Field See & Mason. You should do yourself a favour and check out the Pardoners web site for their latest gig listing.

Either as a duo, or a trio with Lindsay, you will experience some serious quality live music and you are guaranteed to be entertained and will thoroughly enjoy yourself. I speak of this from first hand experience. To check out their latest gigs, just click on the link – Coming Gigs

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgencesGlyn Mason – Lindsay Field – Sam See

What are you looking for when you buy an album? Are you looking for music that sounds like music should, the way we enjoyed it pre-techno? Do you like well constructed songs and not just regurgitated “pap”? Maybe you happen to seek out perfection in production or maybe, you like supporting quality Australian music.

Whatever . . . . you will struggle to find many recently released Australian albums better than this one.

In operating his own studio, Sam has saved a bucket load of money, thumbed his nose at the second rate production that passes for “quality” in this country and he and Glyn, as The Pardoners, have taken control of their own publicity and distribution.

Because of this they and indeed many other indie productions, struggle to reach the mainstream population, although the advent of social media has begun to swing this inbalance in favour of the indie producers. But, just because a work of music may not reach the ears of the “masses”, does not mean it is not quality or deserving of listening to.

Now you have had the chance to listen to some tracks and with Christmas is getting really close, this album would make a great gift for any friend or family member who enjoys quality music. Hey! it would make a great gift for yourself. The music is downloadable from the link at the end of this review, and if you intend to burn it to Cd rather than load onto your music device, don’t forget to download the artwork.

Australian independent music is not looking for a “free handout”. It stands and falls on its own uniqueness and quality, but, it needs the buying public to appreciate that the best music is possibly that, which will never be hear on commercial radio.

I say to you the reader, do yourself a musical favour and make sure Indulgences is part of your collection. You won’t be sorry! Also, if you like this album you should check out the first album by The Pardoners, self titled – “The Pardoners“. This album provides you with 14 great original tracks and while a little more stripped down than “Indulgences“, in terms of additional backing musicians, one thing that isn’t different, is the quality!

Now there is no point looking for second hand copies on Ebay, it seems like everyone who has bought copies keeps them. However the Pardoners do make Indulgences and their available for download at the mighty reasonable price of $19.95 for the Cd, or $1.66/track.

 

Their first album, the self-titled  The Pardoners is available as a download at the bargain price of $16.00.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgences

The first Pardoners album

More recently, under the title of Field, See and Mason they released an amazing album – “Down Under The Covers“, where they have reinterpreted and re energised a selection of classic Australian tracks.  You want different? You got it!

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgences

To order the Cd’s  or download the tracks, just click on the album cover below.

cream of the crate: album #110 – the pardoners: indulgences


VIDEOS – These three video clips are from a recent show performed by The Pardoners with Lindsay Field. All three track appear on the Cd Indulgences. The final clip is an interview Glyn & Sam did for Wrokdown, where they promoted their then new and first Cd – self titled “The Pardoners” (2000)


Babushka


Face Up


Moonlight Can be My Friend


Interview

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