How tiresome, though true, to say that Judy Dyble is best known as the original vocalist with Fairport Convention; that she was in on the birth of King Crimson and voiced “I Talk To The Wind” most wistfully than Greg Lake ever did; and that more recent times have seen her either locked in seclusion, or struggling to escape the shadows of her past.
Well, she’s done it now.
Newly released, Flow and Change is an aptly titled album, but it’s the confidence that surrounds it, rather than the musical approach that has flowed and changed. The opening “Black Dog Dreams” sets the stage, not autobiographically but nevertheless with a statement of intent that opens the entire album up as a dark, defiant and dangerous proposition. Over scorching guitar and foreboding piano, soundscapes visualized by co-writer Simon House (of High Tide and Hawkwind), Dyble sing-speaks her warning:
“I am the black dog that you’ve learned to fear,
“The black dog that sits and moans in your ear,
“I am the creature of legend and lie,
“I am the feared creature of ages gone by....”
None of which actually speaks of Dyble herself, but as creatures of legend go, she takes a lot of beating. Another review compared “Black Dog Dreams” to something Bowie might have demo’d back in 1970, and maybe there is a taste of that here. But there is little here so retro as that maybe makes it sound; rather, Flow and Change stands alongside that other great self-invention of recent years, Mellow Candle’s Alison O’Donnell, in that it throws all but a trace of past glories to the wind and looks instead to what needs to be said and done today.
It is not without reflection. “Featherdancing” is a gorgeous slice of baroque nostalgia for dances and dreams gone by, and after the opening assault of its predecessor, it neatly eases the listener into the string-driven melancholia that will become Flow and Change’s most lasting mode.
But surprises remain - the eerie pastures of “Crow Baby,” all menacing birdsong and spartan percussives; the haunted discomfort of “Head Full of Stars”; the barebone back-and-forth of “Letters”; and all leading up to “The Sisterhood of Ruralists,” an almost-twelve minute epic of weird and wonder that feels like an old English ballad shot through a Neil Gaiman fairytale.
Stunning, electrifying and absolutely breathtaking, Flow and Change is a new release now, but in years to come it will feel like a very old friend indeed. An album that is as timeless as Dyble’s voice has always sounded, and as fragile as the most precious memory.
A prodigious writer, fierce music lover and longtime record collector, Dave Thompson is the author of over 100 books, including Goldmine’s “Standard Catalog of American Records 1950-1990, 8th Edition” as well as Goldmine’s “Record Album Price Guide 7th Edition , both of which are published via Krause Publications and are available at www.krausebooks.com