David Parsons – In Retrospect 1980-2003


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“What a long strange trip it’s been.” It was the Grateful Dead who sang that line, but it’s David Parsons who has actually lived it.

In Retrospect: 1980-2003 is a double CD retrospective of David Parsons’ recording career, one heavily influenced by other cultures and extensive travel.

In 1965, before the Beatles/sitar explosion, Parsons was at a barely attended concert by legendary Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar. “It was,” he says, “love at first sight.” He bought himself a sitar and began to teach himself.


CD review by Chris Spencer


I must confess, not being an enthusiast of meditation nor ambient music, that I found the information contained in the extensive notes on this CD, about the background and overview of Parson’s musical career more interesting than the ‘music’ contained on the CD.

Parsons is now considered ‘an electronic music pioneer’ and a well respected recording engineer and producer of world music.

I’ll sumarise this information, as it provides a good point of introduction into the musical career of Parsons.

David was born and still lives in New Zealand.

He originally started out as a jazz drummer, but wanted to play a melodic instrument.

Before George Harrison introduced the sitar to pop music via the Beatles, Parsons became inspired to learn the sitar after attending a concert by Ravi Shankar who toured New Zealand.

After seven years of teaching himself how to play, he went to India to continue his studies.

While there, he heard recordings of early synthesiser music.

Upon returning to New Zealand, he purchased his own synthesiser and began mixing electronic and natural sounds together, learning how to add multiple tracks on top of each other using a primitive tape recorder.

An early homemade cassette made its way to America, where the manager of a New Age music label heard the cassette and persuaded Parsons to continue recording more albums for the label.

A visit to a monastery of Tibetan monks in India provided more inspiration, which propelled Parsons to record the music of other Asian countries, such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali and West Java.

His interests also lead him to become a composer of film and television music, culminating in the production of a 17 CD collection titled, The Music of Islam.

So what we have here on this double CD of 13 pieces, containing nearly an hour and 20 minutes of running time, are pieces selected from his recorded work, culminating in 2004.

I would describe most of the music on these two CDs as ambient, while other descriptions are ‘aural landscapes and sound sculpting’, New Age music.

It’s relaxing, although Parsons notes that some of his music has a dark underbelly, created by his use of the sitar.

I would suggest that those readers who are interested in ambient, backgound music or relaxation music would find this compilation an essential purchase.

While a whole album of one particular theme might be more relaxing, the individual tracks on these CDs are woven together with skill, no abutting tracks are jarring in comparison.

Despite the album being 17 years old, the contents still sound fresh today.

Additional information

Weight .1500 kg
Dimensions 14 × 12.5 × 1 cm


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