Cult Classic: Linda Perhacs -Parallelograms.

In 1970, twenty-seven year old dental hygienist Linda Perhacs released her debut album Parallelograms. Some people wondered why it had taken Linda so long. After all, she was a musical prodigy.

Linda Long was born in Mill Valley, which lies just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in 1943. By the time she was six or seven, Linda was  able to write write quite complicated compositions. She was gifted. However, as is often the case with gifted children, her teachers didn’t maybe realise this. This didn’t stop Linda enrolling in the University of Southern California.

At University of Southern California, Linda majored in dental hygiene. This allowed her to work and study. Her course also allowed Linda to explore what was unfolding around her. Remember, this was the start of the counterculture explosion. San Francisco was central to this. Being around this meant Linda was exposed to a many different cultures. It was the same with art and music. For Linda, this was creatively stimulating and would change the course of her life.

Having graduated from University of Southern California, Linda began working with periodontist. During this period, Linda immersed herself in the various philosophies that were popular. Essentially, she taught her to mediate and rid herself of negative energy. This helped her and her patients. It may also have helped Linda develop as songwriter. 

Away from work, Linda and her sculptor husband used to enjoy walking in the city’s public parks. It was during these walks that Linda was first inspired to write songs. This was something Linda hadn’t done since she and her husband moved to Topanga Canyon.

Indeed, Linda hadn’t written songs for a while. Throughout her University days, Linda hadn’t been involved in making music. However, she loved music. Topanga Canyon was full of artists and musicians. So, it was the perfect place for an aspiring singer-songwriter. With an environment that inspired her, and the sense of hope that was prevalent during the second half of the sixties, this marked the cultural blossoming of Linda Perhacs. 

What also inspired Linda was her travels. She spent time travelling up the Big Sur coastline, right through Mendocino, the Pacific Northwest and to Alaska. This was her road rip. So was a trip to Chimacum, on the Olympic Peninsula. These journeys were what inspired Linda to write songs. Linda stresses her journeys inspired her. Drugs played no part in stimulating her creativity. Her songs come from her experiences in life. 

This includes the colours, patters and shapes that she’s seen since she was a child. Again, they’re not the result of recreational drugs. No. They’re a phenomenon that many people experience. These colours, patters and shapes inspired Linda, who soon, would be one step releasing her first album.

Linda was, by now, working in the office of Beverley Hills’ periodontist. That’s where Linda met film soundtrack composer Leonard Rosenman and his wife Kay. Linda would ask them about their forthcoming projects. Then one day Leonard said to Linda “I can’t believe that clinical work is all you do.” So, Linda told them about her music and played a tape of one of her songs. These were songs she’d recorded during her travels. Leonard took the songs home to listen to them. The next day, Linda was offered a record contract.

When Linda handed Leonard the tape, she thought that Leonard was wanting to hear a glimpse of the type of music younger people were making. After all, Leonard had a lot of projects on the go. However, that didn’t stop him offering to produce Linda’s debut album. The song that made him make that offer was the Parallelograms, which would be the title-track of Linda’s debut album. Leonard referred to this track as “visual music composition.”

Once Leonard made the offer to produce Linda’s debut album, she headed to his home. Once there, she met musicians and singers she’d only read about. It was then that Leonard explained the his concept of “visual music composition.” Leonard who’d been a composer all his life, had never been able to achieve this. Linda had.  He explained that Parallelograms was different from the other tracks. They were songs. Parallelograms was different. Each of the component parts were interactive to the composer as three-dimensional sound. It’s akin to sculpting with ice, where the result is essentially a type of light and dance. For Linda, this was the way she’d always written. However, now Linda was going to take this one step further and record what became Parallelograms.

Parallelograms featured eleven tracks. Linda wrote ten of them. The exception was Hey, Who Really Cares? which Linda cowrote with Oliver Nelson wrote. Producer Leonard Rosenman brought in an all-star cast of musicians.

When recording of Parallelograms began, Leonard Rosenman and Linda were aiming to sculpt a series of soundscapes full of textures, colours and shapes. The music Linda hoped, would be “softer and ethereal.” Accompanying her were some legendary musicians. This included Shelley Mann and Milt Jackson on percussion. The rhythm section included Reinie Press on electric bass and Fender guitar and Steve Cohn on lead and 12-string guitar. John Neufield played flute and saxophone, Leonard Rosenman electronic effects and Tommy harmonica. Brian Ingoldsby was tasked with using an electrified shower hose for horn effects. Parallelograms was no ordinary album. It was truly groundbreaking.

On its release in 1970, Parallelograms was released to critical acclaim, but sadly, this psychedelic folk classic wasn’t the huge commercial success it should’ve been.  This wasn’t helped by the record company’s failure to promote Parallelograms Linda, like so many other hugely talented artists failed to enjoy their commercial success and critical acclaim. So Linda returned to her job as a periodontist and nothing was heard of Parallelograms until the nineties. Since then, it has become a cult class. Interest in Parallelograms grows with each year. Maybe only now do people fully understand and appreciate this seminal, lost classic which I’ll tell you about.

The wistful Chimacum Rain opens Parallelograms. It has an understated, acoustic arrangement. That’s perfect for Linda’s tender, ethereal vocal. She also adds harmonies. They cascade and surround you, like the rain Linda is singing about. Her vocal has a dreamy, lysergic song. It’s captivating. You’re drawn to and seduced by its ethereal beauty.

Just guitars set the scene for Linda’s vocal on Paper Mountain Man. Her vocal is slow, sultry and deliberate. It’s as if she’s taking care with her phrasing and diction. Behind her, her small tight band mix blues and country. A scorching blues harmonica, guitars and percussion join forces. They leave plenty of space in the arrangement for Linda’s vocal. It’s a mixture of power, emotion and control, that’s yin to the arrangement’s yang.

Ethereal and heartfelt describes Linda’s vocal on Dolphin. She’s accompanied by a lone guitar that reminds me of Nick Drake. Linda delivers a vocal that’s spellbinding in its beauty. It’s quite simply, haunting and captivating.

Call Of The River is reminiscent of Chimacum Rain. Just a guitar accompanies Linda’s vocal. It’s sung with feeling, as cascading harmonies accompany Linda. They’re sung by Linda and compliment her vocal. The same can be said of the arrangement. It’s understated, spacious and dreamy. It  also allows Linda’s vocal to take centre-stage on a track that epitomises everything that’s good about psych-folk.

Just like the previous tracks, Sandy Toes is a carefully crafted soundscape. Here, psych-folk and country combine. An electric bass joins a chiming guitar and percussion. They provide the backdrop to Linda’s vocal. She proceeds to paint pictures. Close your eyes and they come to life. Her cinematic lyrics and tender, heartfelt vocal prove a potent combination, as we hear another side to Linda Perhacs.

Parallelograms is the track that grabbed Leonard Rosenman’s attention. It’s a musical sculpture full of textures, colours and shapes. They drift in and out, to be replaced by something else. From understated and ethereal, darkness and drama makes an appearance. Soon, the lysergic, dreamy and experimental sound makes me think of Alice In Wonderland. You loose yourself in this sonic experiment, drifting away to another place and time. It’s as if the doors of perception have been opened. The only problem is, you neither want the song to finish, nor the doors to close.

Hey, Who Really Cares? is another track where Linda is just accompanied by acoustic guitar. Her vocal is rueful and full of melancholia. It’s joined by a bass, that hesitantly probes its way through the arrangement. Effects and guitars compliment Linda’s wistful vocal. She’s despairing, wondering “if anyone really cares.” Her pain  seems real as she breathes life, meaning and emotion into a song where pathos and pain are ever-present.

Slow and space describes the drums that open Moons And Cattails. Chiming, crystalline guitars quiver and shiver, before Linda’s dreamy, lysergic vocal floats above the arrangement. It’s as if it’s been caught in “sandstorm” she’s singing about. After that, her vocal is deliberate and dramatic. Adding to the drama are drums played by hand and shimmering, weeping guitar. Together, this results in a track that dramatic, moody and atmospheric.

Hesitantly, a line guitars plays as Morning Colors unfolds. It’s all that accompanies Linda, as she delivers a vocal that’s heartfelt and full of sincerity. Just like other tracks, her lyrics have a cinematic quality. They’re also cerebral, haunting and beautiful. The same can be said of the flute and horn that later, accompanies Linda. They’re addition takes the direction of jazz, sometimes free jazz. This compliments the rest of the arrangement and highlights the lyrics, as takes on the role of storyteller. Using her voice like an artist uses his palette, Linda paints pictures that come to life before your eyes.

Porcelain Baked-Over Cast-Iron Wedding was one of the earliest songs Linda wrote. She wrote it in 1969. It’s an uptempo, guitar driven track. Guitars are panned left and right, enveloping Linda’s vocal. She seems determined to make the song swing. This shows another side to her. She’s accompanied by percussion, drums and bass. Linda’s vocal is full of irony, and her lyrics full of social comment at perceived stereotypes. Her combination of intelligent lyrics and subtle hooks are another example of Linda’s versatility and talent as a singer and songwriter.

Delicious closes Parallelograms. Linda’s slow, tender, ethereal vocal is joined by a guitar, as the arrangement meanders along. Her vocal soars elegantly above the arrangement, while the guitar ambles along. Cascading harmonies flit in and out. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Linda’s vocal. It’s one of her best vocals. Ethereal, heartfelt, tender and beautiful, it’s a tantalising taste of what Linda Perhacs is capable of.

Following the release of Parallelograms, it failed commercially. This wasn’t anything to do with the music. Instead, it was the record company’s failure to promote Parallelograms. As a result, Linda, like so many other hugely talented artists, failed to enjoy their commercial success and critical acclaim their talent deserves. So Linda returned to her job as a periodontist.

Nothing was heard of Parallelograms until the nineties. Since then, it has become a cult class. Interest in Parallelograms grows with each year. Maybe only now do people fully understand and appreciate this seminal, lost classic from an artist who should’ve enjoyed a long and successful career.

Looking back, Linda admits that, much as she loved music, she didn’t seem to have the drive required to make a career as a musician. She did, however, have the talent.  Linda was blessed with an abundance of talent. That’s apparent listening to her critically acclaimed debut album Parallelograms.

Parallelograms is a flawless fusion of Americana, country, folk, pop, psychedelia and rock. There’s even a twist of ambient, drone pop, experimental and jazz. It’s  potent and heady brew that showcases one of music’s hidden gems, Linda Perhacs. 

She’s only released three albums between 1970 and 2017 This includes 2014s The Soul Of Natural Things and and 2017s I’m A Harmony. Target mark the welcome return of a truly talented and innovative singer-songwriter.

The Soul Of Natural Things  was the long awaited followup to Parallelograms, and Linda Perhacs picked up where she left off in 1970. It was if she had never been away. Incredibly, forty-four years had passed before Linda returned with the followup to  Parallelograms. It showcases   Linda Perhacs who nearly fifty years after releasing Parallelograms is still one of music’s best kept secrets. . 

Parallelograms features a hugely talented singer and songwriter, Linda Perhacs. Then there was producer Leonard Rosenman, an ambitious, innovator who in Linda, found a musical soul-mate who wanted to push musical boundaries to their limits. The result was Parallelograms an ambitious, innovative and flawless lost classic. It features the ethereal sound of Linda Perhacs, as she breathes, life, meaning, beauty and emotion into the eleven songs on Parallelograms which is a cult classic that is belatedly receiving the plaudits, praise and critical acclaim that it so richly deserves.

Cult Classic: Linda Perhacs -Parallelograms.


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