Review by Silverhand reprinted from Heathen Harvest

A Ripple in Time

Label: WhiteLabel

Genre: Neofolk

01 Deja Vu
02 Angel of Love
03 Wedding Song
04 Wedding Song (Instrumental)
05 Another Day
06 Paradiso
07 Somewhere in the Night
08 Ripples to a Pond
09 Juarez
10 Autumn Day
11 Eldorado (Instrumental)
12 Candle Light
13 Book of Misery

Well, very few bands can claim to have truly earned the appellation of 'Legends', but if any act can, it would certainly be Changes. Formed in winter 1969 by Robert N. Taylor (Vocals) and his cousin Nicholas Tesluk (acoustic guitar and backing vocals), they created one of the very first visions of alternative dark folk and in doing so significantly set themselves apart from any other music of their contemparies. Their outlook was informed by many personal experiences as diverse as Outlaw biker groups, disaffection after leaving the political activism of the Minutemen, and the apocalyptic doctrines (and rumoured links to Charlie Manson's Family) of Robert De Grimston's Process Church of the Final Judgement. Several incarnations of the band have existed, with the original duo being complimented by Karen Taylor and Carol DePugh for the period 1974-77 (following a years break in activities), after which Nicholas' relocation to a different area led him to contributing to the musical project 'Phase II'. Both original members of Changes then continued to write and compose material through the 1980s and early 1990s, although with no expectation of the band ever reforming, and it took Blood Axis' Michael Moynihan to act as catalyst. He had heard some of their early demo tapes and contacted them in 1994 with a mind to re-release them to a wider, more informed audience, which resulted in the 'Fire of Life' releases on his Storm label. From then on Changes have continued to release both new material and re-recorded versions of their older classics to much critical acclaim (such as their journey through heroic European myth 'Legends' and the condemnation of the state of modern civilisation with the 'Twilight' EP).

And so now we come to this, their latest release, 'A Ripple In Time', an apt title for a collection of songs collected mainly from their earliest period (many never released in any form), but re-recorded and enhanced to reflect the current modern sound of Changes. Three new songs are also included, 'Somewhere in the Night' and the two instrumentals 'Paradiso' and 'Eldorado', thus giving a representative snapshot of all of Changes history perfectly suited to both the newcomer and the long-term fan. The presentation of 'A Ripple In Time' certainly befits a band of such standing, from the embossed barbed-wire heart logo on the front, to the quality white vinyl pressing of the LP itself, while all the lyrics to the songs are contained inside the heavy gatefold cover, sure to make this a coveted edition for any collector. As the album starts with 'Deja Vu' (a reworking of the track first featured on the split release with Cadaverous Condition), the classic sound of Changes is immediately there, from Robert Taylor's soulful troubadour's voice to the intricate guitar fretwork and energetic double-time strumming from Nicholas Tesluk driving the music forward.

The lyrical theme is one of looking back to purer simpler days as seen through the perspective of multiple lifetimes, hand in hand with an understanding love, and the nobility of the sentiments shines through with heartfelt passion. Multiple vocals add to the urgency and impact of selected phrases with a masterful touch, and the final lines of 'how many lifetimes have we lost, how many countless days?' rings through the mind in plaintive mourning for lost better times. 'Angel of Love' then brings a love song of delicate and poetic composition, casting through dreamlike imagery while an evocative flute passage weaves throughout the bridge to give an unexpected twist of instrumentation that blends seamlessly with the familiar Changes sound. Another love song then follows in the shape of 'Wedding Song', but in two different consecutive versions. The first is in traditional Changes mode as Robert Taylor sings a tale of one hearts dedication, with pledges of loyalty and the undertaking of a seeker's journey into a joint future of shared visions. This is followed then in turn by an instrumental adaptation of the same melody played as an entrancing solo piano piece, almost baroque in tempo and joined towards its conclusion by the subtle interplay of cello (and other soft strings), giving a wonderful classical feel that acts as counterpoint to the preceeding folkier version.

With 'Another Day' the album returns to a more summery and upbeat energy, with guitar and vocals forming a rich tapestry dedicated to the eternal cyclical rhythms of nature, and how nature still dictates to us in turn our own human cycles of behaviour. As ever the razor sharp focus of the lyrics say it so eloquently with lines such as 'men are born and then they pass away, nature makes the games they play'. The second instrumental track 'Paradiso' (and the first of the brand new compostions) then brings a delicate slice of tasteful fingerpicked acoustic guitar, seemingly dedicated to a brief moment of paradise glimpsed through the storms of modern times. Timeless in atmosphere, style, and impact, its busier midsection is soon soothed and conquered by the beginning dreamlike phrases once more, so bringing it to optomistic conclusion. The first side of 'A Ripple In Time' is then rounded off by 'Somewhere in the Night', which elegantly combines guitar rhythm phrases and melodic lead lines in a seamless backing. The verses about a quest for unity in the darkness of today adds to the additional brief restrained piano of the songs bridge, in a virtuoso display of longing for better times (an outlook many of us can relate to wholeheartedly), making a perfect interval between the albums two halves.

The second side of the LP debuts with 'Ripples to a Pond', a return to the subject of a deep empathy with nature stirring and re-awakening love's passion within the heart, and the succint observation that 'seasons make the songs we sing'. The use of a wooden flute adds an apt further layer of sound to represent the levity of nature's influence upon the human mood in an inspired welcome musical addition. A slight nod is then made to a flamenco influence with the arpeggiated strummed chords of 'Juarez', an ode to the degenerated soul and failing appearance of an archetypal female wedded to the false economic Gods and materialistic goals of present civilisation, and how such allegiances are the murder of timeless ideas of true beauty. 'Autumn Day' then pays homage to the yearly dying and retreat of life during the closing of the seasons, once again impressing upon the listener the deep spiritual resonance obviously felt by Changes for unspoilt surroundings, and a respectful awareness of the resulting revolving shifts in the sensations measured by the human senses throughout the year.

Eloquent yet subtle counterpoint is then given by the second new instrumental on 'Ripples In Time' entitled 'Eldorado', presumably dedicated to those souls who suffered in the Conquistador's rape of South America's native civilisations. The fury of the rapidly accelerating 12-string guitar riffs paint a picture of chaos and disruption, and of those fleeing the tyranny of ignorant greed obsessed fools, in a stern condemnation of such a superficial worldview. Drawing us on towards the album's conclusion then comes 'Candle Light', with metaphors of illumination casting away the gloom, and the penetration of the darkness by clear focussed thought. Both elegant and straight to the point, this possesses a suitable intent to lead us to the final song of the release, 'Book of Misery', which describes the loss and misery of those left behind by others moving on to newer more productive pastures, and of chances never taken regretfully remembered. This makes a perfect end to a superb album, urging and leaving us with a note of warning to seize the day and forge a better new life for us all while we still have the opportunity. Any new material from Changes is always welcome and eagerly awaited, and it is gratifying to hear that this is one act not content with resting on its laurels in a lazy stagnant fashion. All of the hallmarks many have come to love are present in 'A Ripple In Time', but newer elements have also been added to the core Changes sound. Robert Taylor's soaring voice and Nicholas Tesluk's instantly recognisable guitar style have been expanded with the addition of the aforementioned flute & piano arrangements, keeping the band's sound fresh, yet still instantly recognisable. The length of time over which the material on this LP has been written gives it a breadth of vision rarely matched by any artist in their lifetime, as it is so deeply emotionally involving, damn near perfect musically, and inspiring in its subject matter, this must undoubtably be an essential for all independant thinkers feeling at odds with the current world. If only all music were this heartfelt, superlative phrases just can't do it justice, so just show your support by getting your copy today before they are all gone. Then, sit down to drink in some of the very best in dark folk of any decade, played by some of the few deserving living musicians who deserve the title of Bard in its most lofty, erudite, and inspired meaning. An awesome cry of defiance from the shadows, in the way it should be done. As essential as the air you breathe.

A direct link to Silverhand's review on the Heathen Harvest site: