Review Summary: Purson turn their spotlight towards the intermediate space between ‘70s pop, progressive, and occult/folk rock and deliver an enticing debut album.
For every individual striving to leave its mark upon this vainly world, they say that “if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again”. However, for Southend, Essex based guitarist/vocalist Rosalie Cunningham the previously mentioned quote could be re-written as “If at first you do succeed for all the wrong reasons, try, try again”. After her relocation to London, Cunningham fronted the all female alt rock Ipso Facto outfit and soon started moving up in the world, but somehow this was happening in the light of an agenda that had little to do with music itself. As a result, she disbanded the outfit after the release of one mini album.
After several unsuccessful attempts in tracking band associates she could really depend on, Rosie met Ed Turner, a multi-instrumentalist/sound engineer at Toe-Rag studios and a fellow vintage rock enthusiast. Together they were the seed of a new band named after Purson, a hell demon and good things started happening for the act. Their debut 7" on the legendary Rise Above label sold out on pre-order, whereas they were invited to open the live concerts of acclaimed doom metal acts such as Pentagram and Electric Wizard. As of yet, their upward course is being further complemented with a full length album, titled The Circle and the Blue Door
, an enticing album where the band turns its spotlight towards the intermediate space between ‘70s pop, progressive, and occult/folk rock.
Unlike Cunningham’s previous outfit, Purson appear to be polycentric with respect to their portfolio of inspiration. Aside from obvious influences and bands such as Pentagram, Coven or Black Widow, whose occult rock was bearing folk and psychedelic elements as well, the band appears to draw a fair amount of inspiration from pop rock outfits such as David Bowie and The Beatles and folk rock veterans such as Fairport Convention. In that respect, the material in The Circle and the Blue Door
shows itself as fairly diverse. That being said, what initially distinguishes Purson’s debut album, is the band’s great instrumental and song writing ability in fusing a discrete progressive rock aura to the aforementioned cultural inheritance and crafting songs of great replay value.
In the light of the above, atmospheric acoustic guitars are either waltzing or blues dooming over the chameleon-like rhythm section (pay attention to the bass in “Contract”). On the more energetic parts of the album, the catch lies in the non-trivial interplay between rhythm guitars and the fantastically crafted old fashioned keyboards (“Leaning on a Bear”) which also serve as a third rhythm/lead guitar on not too few occasions. However, the element lifting the album on a whole different level is Rosie’s vocal work. Contrary to what is the case for many female fronted occult/vintage rock acts out there, Rosie has a powerful, fully mastered and crystal clear voice, with an excellent performance on both the mellower and the more passionate sites of the album. Her vocals become even more meaningful in view of her written lyrics, which further enhance the folk character of the album, as Cunningham narrates fictionalized versions of real events (“The Sailor’s Wife’s Lament”) or coins entertaining stories that revolve around the occult (“Spiderwood Farm”).
As an epilogue, Purson’s debut album summarizes appropriately the strong sense of purpose with which the band introduces itself to the world of music. The Circle and the Blue Door
is a worthy addition to any dedicated record collection with respect to the occult/vintage rock and comes as a strong statement in a time where some debate has risen as to whether this retro rock revival maintains its initial spontaneity and quality. On a personal level, it is a first triumph for Rosie Cunningham and an example of free spirit rock musicians acting exactly as such, as it stands as proof of a true vision that has been pursued at all costs, eve if that means experiencing abrupt personal life changes or discarding success that’s there for all the wrong reasons.