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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Gary Wright And Wonderwheel - Ring Of Changes (1972 us / uk, astonishing soulful classic rock, 2016 release)

In a career spanning seven decades, there’s little Gary Wright hasn’t accomplished.  Having earned a role on Broadway before hitting his teenage years, the musically-talented New Jersey native moved to London, formed Spooky Tooth, befriended George Harrison, played on hit records from Harrison, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson, and launched his own successful career with smashes like “Dreamweaver” and “Love is Alive.”  But one chapter of the Gary Wright story has been long lost: his 1972 album Ring of Changes, recorded with his band Wonderwheel for A&M Records.  Though singles were released bearing the promise “From the album Ring of Changes,” the LP never arrived…until now.  Esoteric Recordings, an imprint of Cherry Red Group, has teamed with Universal Music for the first release of Ring of Changes this Friday, July 29.

Singer-songwriter/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Wright departed Spooky Tooth in January 1970 to pursue a solo career, signing with Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’ legendary A&M label and recording Extraction that spring.  The following year, he recorded his sophomore set, Footprint.  When Footprint failed to perform to expectations, Wright decided to return to a band format.  He formed Wonderwheel with guitarist-singer Mick Jones, later of Foreigner, as well as bassist Tom Duffey and drummer Bryson Graham.  The group traveled to Apple Studios on Savile Row in London to record the album that became Ring of Changes.  

Most of the album comprised straight-ahead, melodic and muscular rock tunes, but a softer, Laurel Canyon influence was also detectable on the more acoustic-oriented, harmony-laden cuts.  George Harrison, who frequently welcomed Wright to his own LPs, played a trademark slide guitar solo on the mid-tempo, country-flecked ballad “Goodbye Sunday” which Wright wrote with his sister Lorna Lee.  (In the liner notes to Esoteric’s first-time issue, the artist also indicates that Harrison may have played on other tracks, but it’s difficult to confirm as Mick Jones had also picked up the slide at that time.)

A&M released “I Know” on 45 RPM in the U.S., Italy and Germany (b/w “Tonight It’s Right,” not included on this release), and the anthemic “Ring of Changes” b/w “Somebody” in the U.K., but no album was forthcoming.   The decision was made by A&M to shelve Ring of Changes.  Its fate led Wright to re-establish Spooky Tooth, this time with Wonderwheel’s Jones and eventually Graham coming on board.  The LP sat in the A&M vaults for more than 40 years, but Esoteric is finally presenting this lost rock classic in full with three bonus tracks: the outtake “What We Can Do,” and the non-LP sides “I Know” and “Somebody.”

Mark Powell provides the informative liner notes in the color 14-page booklet here, drawing on a new interview with Gary Wright, and Wright himself has newly mastered the album with Kevin Bartley at Hollywood’s Capitol Studios.  
by Joe Marchese

1. Lovetaker - 4:34
2. Wild Bird - 3:43
3. Something For Us All - 4:10
4. Set On You - 3:59
5. Ring Of Changes - 3:53
6. Goodbye Sunday - 4:35
7. For A Woman - 5:03
8. Workin' On A River - 3:58
9. Creation - 5:19
10.I Know (Gary Wright) - 2:57
11.What Can We Do (Mick Jones, Gary Wright) - 5:09
12.Somebody (Gary Wright) - 2:50

The Wonderwheel
*Gary Wright - Vocals, Keyboard, Guitar
*Mick Jones - Lead, Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
*Tom Duffey - Bass, Vocals
*Bryson Graham - Drums
*George Harrison - Slide Guitar

1971-72  Gary Wright - Extraction / Footprint
Related Acts
1968  Spooky Tooth - It's All About (2005 and 2010 SHM)
1969  Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two (2005 remaster and 2010 SHM)

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