John Palmer

John Palmer

For the lead guitarist of the 60s band Savage Resurrection, see John Palmer (10).


John Palmer Discography Tracks


John Palmer Shorelines (Album) Celebration Canada 1971 Sell This Version
RRBW 203 Pat Starr (2), Tater Tate, Harold B. "Shot" Jackson, John Palmer, Donna Darlene Pat Starr (2), Tater Tate, Harold B. "Shot" Jackson, John Palmer, Donna Darlene - Rural Rhythm Presents Beautiful Waltz Melodies(LP, Mono) Rural Rhythm Records RRBW 203 US Unknown Sell This Version


Add Review



June 21, 2013
Variously described as "loner folk" or "downer psych folk," this is yet another LP that is often mentioned in the same breath as Skip Spence's "Oar."
Does it hold up to the comparison? In sound, not so much. But in spirit, perhaps. John Palmer apparently wrote every song, handled almost all of the instruments and arrangements, and used this artistic exercise as an opportunity to express his sorrows and the bleak worldview he had at the time.
I wouldn't classify this as a folk album per se since many tracks feature amplified instruments in addition to a rhythm section. Nonetheless, a brooding, introspective folk vibe permeates throughout the proceedings, and Palmer's 12-string guitar gives things a bit of troubadourish flavor. Rarely do I find LPs of this variety to be worthy of the hype that they receive, but I have to admit that this one delivers the goods in spades. You want me-against-the-world sentiments articulated in a wasted yet eloquent manner augmented by heavy psychedelic and/or stark acoustic musical landscapes? Then look no further.

I know virtually nothing about Palmer himself. I'm making an educated guess that he's Canadian, but I could be wrong. My assumption is based on information that indicates the Celebration label was from Canada. There is a very good essay on Shorelines over at this website, which indicates that the musician had connections to a local commune and was indeed grappling with some inner demons during the time when the album was recorded. It was recently reissued in rather lavish packaging that includes detailed notes about the songs and, one would assume, biographical information about Palmer. If anyone out there has this record and can be bothered to scan and e-mail that stuff to me, I would greatly appreciate it.

Since, as I had mentioned previously, my MP3 files of the songs sound like they're from an original 1971 pressing, you will have to contend with assorted snaps, crackles, and pops. It even sounds like there was some other music accidentally recorded over one of the tracks, but it may have just been added intentionally as a psychedelic effect. Despite these sonic limitations, don't let them be a distraction from this very moving listening experience. The opener, "Cloud," just kind of sneaks up on you as it begins. Backwards bits, bleak piano, doomy keyboards, and Palmer's haunting vocals give you an idea of what you're getting yourself into. As you would guess by its title, "Solitude" is just the man and his 12-string guitar and provides a moving account of a relationship that has come to an end. Shorelines' finest moment belongs to fuzz guitar-laden "Free Me," which may very well be the definitive performance for music of this genre. In a word, transcendent. "Seedling of Light" and "Colours for the Shoreline" are both lovely acoustic ballads filled with poetic imagery, while "Such a Long Time" nicely rocks out, relatively speaking. "The Wheel" and "Mapl" (possibly a reference to MAPL, an acronym for music, artist, production, and lyrics standards necessary for a song to meet the content requirements of Canadian radio) are fine instrumentals that are in the same bag as some of John Fahey's classic material. "Mandalla" has an enchanting, mystical feel to it and seems to uncoil and pulsate much in the same way the like-named concentric configurations of geometric shapes do when you stare into them for extended periods. Toward the end of this song, you can hear that strange overdub that I'm not sure was intentional or not. "Better Late Than Never" veers toward territory occupied by Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, and even, as another reviewer suggests, Bill Fay. The same can be said of "Salvation's Den," although it's a bit more produced. Yes, it is something of a downer ending, but what else were you expecting? Resignation never sounded so beautiful.

Videos (3) Edit