GARY WRIGHT AND WONDERWHEEL – Ring Of Changes

Esoteric 2016

GARY WRIGHT AND WONDERWHEEL - Ring Of Changes

GARY WRIGHT
AND WONDERWHEEL –
Ring Of Changes

Dreamweave by any other name: on leave from his main band, American songwriter reconnects with his roots.

The record by WONDERWHEEL, a band Gary Wright corralled in 1971, belonged to the lore of legend for decades but, having languished in an archive for so long, is finally rolling out of obscurity. The SPOOKY TOOTH leader teamed up with future FOREIGNER guitarist Mick Jones and drummer Bryson Graham to get away from the gloomy complexities of "Ceremony" and promote his first solo works on the road which would lead to this album… if only it was released. Yet it wasn’t, albeit a brace of compositions – a boisterous “I Know” and “Somebody” – got out on a single. Both, together with a lazily wild “What We Can Do” that was never meant to make the cut, are appended to the CD that marks the official debut of “Ring Of Changes” and exposes the rootsiest layer of the “Dreamweaver” maker’s personality.

The rollicking “Something For Us All” could be a motto and a summary for the record where boogie, country-rock and soul vie for the listener’s attention, but there’s a nice homogeneity to the nine songs on display. It’s easy to go with the flow, though, when folk motifs of “Set On You” carefully hide the piece’s underlying psychedelic layer, while its communal spirit is fleshed out in the finely textured title track that could have emerged from Big Pink. Most of the album may be firmly anchored to American soil, but if the romantic “Goodbye Sunday” is taken down to earth and then back to the clouds thanks to the band’s sinewy delivery and George Harrison’s slide solo, Gary – also no stranger to tasty exotica – sprinkles sitar over the transparent wings of “Wild Bird” to spice it up before the ivories zoom in on the melody’s mesmerizing flight.

Much more muscular, the funky grit takes “Workin’ On A River” to the South, whereas “Lovetaker” hatches up from a bluesy riff and gets up to the crest of an organ wave to proudly ride the hymnal tide, with a stereo-busting call-and-response wrought out of many Wright voices, that’s as solemnly punchy in its mighty splashes as “For A Woman” is in a guitar-caressed spiritual reconnaissance. Even after this, the gripping uplift of “Creation” – barely-there in the beginning, tightened in time for the chorus and roaringly upbeat further on – is somewhat unexpected, although logical in the record’s overall context.

The context didn’t seem to satisfy the label’s management, and the album was shelved, freeing the ensemble to become part of the reformed TOOTH a year later. Dusted off, “Ring Of Changes” won’t alter a fan’s perception of Gary Wright’s oeuvre yet it will enrich his legacy.

****

December 20, 2016

Category(s): Reviews
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