In the words of Mark Twain from Chapter 25 of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he was raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” That’s what you want to do is to go on an exploration to find the lost and sunken pieces that never saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And for Gary Wright, it’s the gem that is finally getting the recognition it deserves of the lost album that is finally getting the release from the good people of Esoteric Recordings.
Ring of Changes is released this year from the label and is considered a lost gem of the 1970s era of rock music. After the release of the controversial album between Spooky Tooth’s collaboration with musique concrete artist Pierre Henry of the Ceremony album in 1969 on the Island label, Wright left the band to pursue a solo career in January of 1970 after the band broke-up. He signed a deal with the A&M label and released his debut album, Extraction in the Spring of that year.
He worked with people including Alan White (Yes), Klaus Voorman, and Spooky Tooth’s Mike Kellie. And then he had the opportunity to work with the late great George Harrison to work on the 1970 classic, All Things Must Pass. When his second album, Footprint was released in 1971, it didn’t do well. He then decided to form a band with the people he worked with including Mick Jones of Foreigner on Guitar, Bryson Graham on Drums, and Tom Duffey on Bass.
He called it Wonderwheel. The Ring of Changes album was recorded at Apple Studios on Saville Row. Listening to this album, you can almost close your eyes and be at the sessions and just imagine the magic that Wright and his fellow bandmates were creating magic during the recording of the album. It’s powerful, raw, strong, bluesy, and heavy at the same time.
Everything was going according to plan. When they sent the tapes to A&M Records, the label decided to shelve it. They felt it wasn’t up to his first two albums. The music industry can be treacherous at times when they would say ‘no’ and would shelve a piece of music right out of the blue. And now with the Esoteric release of the lost album finally released this year, it is for me, one of the must have albums to buy.
You have the raw riffs between Mick Jones and roaring/melodic vocals from Wright himself as his Organ takes into deeper, heavenly, and potential sections of the opener, Lovetaker. It is a great introduction to start the album off with a cannonball ready to go off for a dosage of Hard and Blues/Soul Rock. The encouraging riding rhythm gets you going as it demonstrates with Something For Us All.
It’s got the vibrations that between Jones, Duffey, and Graham show that while they have Gary’s back 100%, it could have been a killer single for FM radio to delve in for the ride of their lifetime. But it’s George Harrison’s sliding guitar that comes into place for a killer Bluesy ride and it shows that he’s not just a Beatle anymore, but lending a helping hand for Gary before going into a mourning singing of saying farewell in the bit of Carole King’s Tapestry-era and Badfinger with Goodbye Sunday.
I love how Wright takes the style of Church, Gospel, and Blues and rolled it into one as he takes the listener up to the heavens with some sliding guitar sections on the romantic side to be in love with the woman that you need to be with For a Woman. You can Gary’s pleading in his voice and his almost begging and crying whilst on his knees to be with the woman who will be with him the rest of his life and start a new family and be a better father figure for their kids.
He goes into a heavier rockin’ mode in the styles between Led Zeppelin and early UFO and styles of Jimmy Page-sque riffs really gets down and have a raunchy feel by Workin’ on a River while strolling down into the Mississippi for an Acoustical bluegrass-folk R&B vibe to Set On You. The three bonus tracks on the album contains two singles and a session track.
There’s also a 16-page booklet about the making of the album and the formation of Wonderwheel. It includes liner notes by Mark Powell and an interview with Gary Wright himself about what happened to the shelved project and finally getting the recognition it is deserving about the e-mails he received on when he was going to release the album, Ring of Changes.
The booklet contains single 45RPM promo pictures and with Gary’s performing also. All put aside, this is again, the album that I have enjoyed not just because it’s released, but it’s like opening up a door that is dusted for 40 some odd years and finally clearing and remodeling it up a bit and releasing the energy it has with its voltage and electricity to get you ready of Gary Wright and Wonderwheel’s exploration toward the Ring of Changes.