Thanks to Facebook I had some contact with singer Judy Dyble in the past. At the time she promised me to send some promos to review for this website. Back then I didn't know that she was an award-winning British singer-songwriter. Moreover, I wasn't aware of the fact that she was one of the vocalists and founder members of Fairport Convention and Trader Horne. In between she joined and recorded several tracks together with Ian McDonald forGiles, Giles and Fripp, a band that after her departure evolved into King Crimson. I didn't know either that Judy Dyble left the music business in 1973 in order to work with her husband. At the 1981 Fairport Convention Annual Reunion she appeared on stage as a surprise guest. Following her husband's death in 1994, she began to write and perform again. This resulted in her debut album Enchanted Garden (2004) followed by Spindle and The Whorl (both 2006) and her latest album Talking With Strangers (2009). Eventually she has never sent me any promos; she must have forgotten it I guess. So I wasn't familiar with her music, but thanks to the re-release of her latest album I am now.
A deal for the first official release of the album in the USA via Gonzo Multimedia, made it possible that I got hold of a copy of Talking With Strangers. This reissue contains complete new art work and features two bonus tracks. Right from the start I noticed that her voice sounds quite similar to Annie Haslam' s, the lead vocalist for Renaissance. She has the same crystal clear voice that fits perfectly in the progressive rock genre. The music on Talking With Strangers can certainly be regarded to be prog rock, but influenced by folk music which isn't strange at all if you know her musical background. Talking With Strangers mostly is a record that creates various moods drawing heavily on Judy's personal experiences in life like music, love and death.
It took her quite a long time to finish the album supported by Tim Bowness (No-Man, vocals, electric guitar) andAlistair Murphy (keyboards, guitars). This record is a real showcase for Judy's vocals, showing a maturity and self-assuredness befitting a lady of wide professional experience gained over four decades in the music business. The recordings for this album were meetings of old musical friends as well since Robert Fripp (guitar, soundscapes) and Ian McDonald (saxophone, flutes, ukulele) contributed, people who made King Crimson big in the seventies. King Crimson's current drummer Pat Mastelotto is a guest musician on the album as well.
In general, most of the songs on Talking With Strangers have a rather mellow and relaxed atmosphere except forHarpsong, an almost twenty-minute biographical piece. The lyrics explain the reason why she lost her interest in music in the seventies and how she found it again thirty years later. This sentimental epic journey certainly is the highlight on the album featuring some guest spots from people who played with Dyble in the sixties. The first half starts rather mellow containing some fine playing of Judy on the autoharp. The music is shifting gear as the song moves to the second instrumental part, which has certain musical connections with the seventies King Crimson era due to the use of the flute and the saxophone.
Another highlight is C'Est La Vie a song written by Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield, two musicians who both participated in King Crimson. Her cover of this Emerson, Lake & Palmer song sounds very strong. Rachel Hallhas a leading role on this track by playing a beautiful solo on the violin. Also the tracks on which Tim Bowness adds some vocals can be regarded to be true beauties. On songs like Dreamtime and Grey October Day his voice certainly has an added value to the music. Dreamtime is also the song with the clearest folk references bringing back the days with Fairport Convention and Trader Horne. The two bonus tracks Sparkling - with some beautiful Mellotron samples - and Waiting are recorded in the same style of music as the regular songs on Talking With Strangers. I would like to recommend this album to people, who like a strong mixture of rather mellow progressive rock and folk music. You'll probably enjoy it as much as I did!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)