CHANGES - Orphan in the Storm - LP - 14 tracks - HauRuck! - 2004

It would be honest to say that the release of the new Changes album was eagerly awaited as it took many years for it to see the day... You do not wait for new material from this American folk duo as you wait for any other album released in the (neo)folk 'scene'... All those interested in apocalyptic folk music are (or otherwise should be) conscious that Changes (their first 'incarnation' dating back to late 1969) are, amongst other legendary formations, at the origin of the genre. It is also relevant and indispensable to mention here the precious and constant support of Michael Moynihan (Blood Axis) to this American duo, over the years. He first rediscovered Changes music and produced the 'Fire of Life' cd (his 'early Changes best of') in 1996. A collection of songs reissued a few years later (2002) on HauRuck! as a vynil and cd edition.
It should be said that without the help (and the conviction) of Michael Moynihan, then Albin Julius, and Robert Ferbrache who did all the studio engineering (and who also plays keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars on this new opus), 'Orphan in the Storm', that was recorded in 1995 during the same three-day session as the 'Legends' cd, would never have seen the light of day... This collection of 'new released' songs is in a sense, one of the expressions of Changes third incarnation.

'Orphan In The Storm' (in reference to the peculiar, controversial and tortured life of the poet and short story writer) is dedicated to the memory of Edgar Allan Poe. It features fourteen folk ballads, half of which do not sound totally new, considering they are different or new versions of original songs... But why should we deny ourselves the pleasure of listening to remasterised or reinvented versions of songs we already like?!

The album opens with the eponymous song... lead as usual by Taylor's vocals and N. Tesluk's recognisable guitar and backing vocals, this short and respectful ode to Edgar Allan Poe draws its strength from its very simplicity.

'Changes (Theme)', 'Embarkation' and 'Sailor's Song' all three new songs lead by lively guitar melodies are amongst the Changes songs attached to an image, at least in my mind, of an outside recording session... the studio environment appears as almost too limited for these songs that, played lived around a camp fire, should express even more all their vitally and their universal appeal... Those who see a cliché here are just to be pitied for not being able to discern authenticity even when it is so obvious...

'What's the Wind if it's not free' is served again by simple but efficient lyrics delivered by Taylor's warm vocals and Tesluk's familiar guitar playing...

Nicholas Tesluk also appears on lead vocals on two songs which is not that usual… Taylors's deep and warm voice has something unique and incomparable, but Tesluk's voice could be considered as its counterpart... softer, sincere and fragile, it expresses another form of sensibility.
The beautiful love song 'Never so true' has an indefinable perfume, due in part to the particular keyboard lines, that bring the listener back to the 70's psyche-music period... The same applies to 'The Reckoning' where the electric guitar replaces the keyboard...

'Icarus', whatever the version, is for me one the most inspired Changes songs... initially released years ago as an acoustic version on a 7", the present offering has been remixed and fully orchestrated... The same work was done on 'Summer' (that originally appeared on the split 10" with Cadaverous Condition) and one can only be delighted with the present version. 'Aphrodite' also features in a new rocking and successful form... As for 'The Times They Ain't a-Changing', how to consider the title of this song otherwise than a caustic and ironic allusion to Bob Dylan's famous song...

Bearing in mind the discrete but efficient role played by Michael Moynihan over the years, his presence on the backing vocals of 'Song of Pan' and 'Twilight of the West' appears as a very nice surprise…and his recognizable timbre adds depth to the chorus.
The present version of 'Song of Pan' (that originally features on the 10" split) which is already a beautiful song with acoustic guitar, vocals and flute, expresses something stronger with Michael Moynihan performing the backing vocals.

The last two songs stand as classics in Changes repertoire… the apocalyptic hit 'Waiting for the Fall' and the extended 'Twilight of the West' in an outstanding version featuring Michael Moynihan.

The limited lp edition comes with an insert featuring an informative text ('The Third Incarnation of Changes') written by R.N.Taylor about the different stages of Changes history. The front album cover presents 'Orphan in the Storm' a painting from R.N. Taylor (a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe that captures in a beautiful manner his intellectual beauty). As usual, title calligraphy and graphics are the work of N. Tesluk who is also responsible for the painting 'The Gold Bug' (from the name of a Poe short story) printed on the lyric sheet.
A cd version (with identical artwork) is also available; it comes in a nice digipack with a 16-page booklet including the same information as the vinyl insert.

Despite the long wait, that often makes one have too many expectations (and sometimes reasons to be disappointed), there is no doubt that this new Changes album can be counted amongst the two best (neo) folk records (with the Sangre Cavallum debut album) released last year.

After such a plea, it is obvious that I can only highly recommend 'Orphan in the Storm' to all those inclined (even a bit) to appreciate folk ballads rooted in the simple and timeless tradition of folk music...

Nathalie F.
Winter 2004/05

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