Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Classic Album Review - The Choir - Free Flying Soul

The Choir has just released another album, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard so I figure it’s appropriate that the next “Classic Album Review” is of the only Choir album on the list, Free Flying Soul. Those aware of this band are probably scratching their heads as to why my top Choir pick wouldn’t be one of their other albums, and with good reason. Over the course of their career this band has released a surprising number of very solid albums (Chase the Kangaroo, Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen and Circle Slide are all tens) but this album has captured my heart.

After years and years of touring and writing and recording the band was in top form. Coming off their Kissers and Killers album there’s still quite a bit of grit in these songs, which me likey! This aggression is couched in solid songwriting, interesting arrangements and killer melodies. There’s also an animal theme with song titles of “Salamander”, “Sled Dog”, “The Chicken” and others. Considered a dark album, Free Flying Soul is full of inspired and vivid poetry. The eerie, quiet “Polar Boy” is a stark personal revelation of need with lines such as “He’s got his purple nose / Pressed against your icy window / Perhaps you will allow / Polar boy in so he can warm himself / By your fire.” “Away With the Swine” is a rocker that sits easily alongside Kissers and Killers songs… gotta love those fuzzy guitars and that fuzzy bass!

“The Ocean” is a song I’ve skipped for so long I had forgotten it was on here. Listening to it again for he first time in years, well, it’s not bad but it doesn’t seem to fit the album. I don’t think I’ve been missing anything so I’ll continue to skip it. And besides, it’s followed by “If You’re Listening”, another simply amazing song of confession. Once again the song is album more air than it is notes, aching in its delivery. My wife says the song is ruined by the bass but I think the bass makes the song, a sub-octave fuzzed out tone that is almost a subliminal rumbling. The lyrics on this song are simply superb, scathingly honest in their willingness to accept the hurt our sin causes those around us. “If you’re listening to me now / I wouldn’t blame you anyhow for running me / Out of town.” Excellent guitar work on this one as well.

“Slow Spin” is, by every account, an odd yet brief song with spoken sections but it just works, kind of a quick sketch that knows not to overstay its welcome. “Leprechaun” continues the whimsy, capturing the image of a happy walk across the lawn with a big Chandler-written loping rhythm. “Yellow-Haired Monkeys” continue to provide a light breath after the previous heavy album, leading to “Butterfly”, an absolutely gorgeous song about wanting to inspire one’s children to take wing and fly. “You are precious more than I could express / Melody and word are poor at best / You are a gift to me / A treasure from Heaven / You were created to fly / To decorate the blue sky…” I’ve got to stop or else I could end up giving the entire song up as an example. Add to this Tim’s excellent bass line, sometimes slippery, sometimes groaning and Derri’s shimmering guitar tone and you’ve got a winner. Listening again I’m astounded that as the song progresses it just gets better and better. The album ends fittingly dark with “The Warbler,” a haunting midnight song if there ever was one- the song just sounds like pre-dawn after a sleepless of tears and fears. Despite the tone and feel Steve can’t help but to offer up hope in the lyrics “Never mind that drum dirge you hear droning” but instead celebrate despite your circumstances.

It’s difficult to believe that Free Flying Soul was written in 1996, 14 years ago. I didn’t get the album when it came about because I was in my musical abstinence period and thus I missed the chance to see The Choir play in Fort Wayne. BAH! But when the album finally made its way into my head it was exactly what my soul needed - a reality-smudged celebration of faith and family.

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