Starting his career as a producer and engineer, Pantry made some respected '60s recordings and dreamed of success in the mainstream. In the '70s he worked with some of the earliest Christian pop artists in the UK, producing their earliest efforts. In the mid '70s he once again stepped into the spotlight and with the seminal UK Christian pop record 'Empty Handed'. 'Hot Coals', released in 1981 was recorded at a time when Pantry was still one of the most popular Christian music acts in the country and I was a student at Leeds Uni and working for his management team in the summer. It was actually my idea to credit the entire audience that attended the gigs in London and Halifax where this was "recorded". The idea was for a full band to record live in the old fashioned way. Sadly due to some technicalities, the only thing on here which is live is the audience noise! Pantry and musicians retired to a recording studio soon afterwards and recorded the whole album again from scratch. Scandalous I know but there you go. The end result as you'd imagine sounds perfect with its live feel, and a fine selection of songs from Pantry's pen. Highlights are the title cut with the full-on band arrangement and the inspiring "Not Guilty" from an era when Christian artists sang passionately and obviously about spiritual stuff on non worship albums. "Skin Deep" reflects the futility of being stuck in a 9-5 existence and "Power" and "Love Is A Fire" are both funky little numbers which allow the horn section to blow and both have those unforgettable catchy choruses. I remember the whole production was reprised on the Greenbelt mainstage in '81 complete with all the participants dressed smartly in yellow 'Hot Coals' T shirts. Things were done differently back then! Listening again nearly 20 years later, I have an obvious affection for the album and the memories it brings back and I'm struck by how much Pantry sounds like Gilbert O'Sullivan in places!
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