2013 saw the release of the 3rd CD edition of Talking to Strangers. The previous year, a second limited edition vinyl LP was available. Both were released with new cover artwork from Jackie Morris. Harpsong Instrumental, which was on the track list of the first edition but not on the CD itself, was replaced by two bonus tracks: Sparkling and Waiting. Strangely, there is no mention of a Label on either the CD or the Booklet. On the internet, there are clues which seem to point toward Gonzo Multimedia being the "secret label." There seem to have been no attempts at improving the sound quality, even though parts of Harpsong sound somewhat muffled to me.
Most of the compositions on Talking to Strangers were written by Judy Dyble and Tim Bowness. Consequently, the songs reflect an interesting mixture of 70s psychedelic Prog-Folk and elements of new Art rock. Some might even rediscover elements of the transitional period where Giles, Giles & Fripp became King Crimson.
After several languorous almost static seeming Folk-Prog pieces Harpsong surprises with passages stylistically reminiscent of a place somewhere between the King Crimson in their last line up (before the, now, final dissolution), the first King Crimson line up and the only McDonald & Giles LP. I like the soundscapes, flute solos and ethnic percussion passages on Longtracks even more because there is almost nothing I can find to compare them with.
The title song and Dreamtime show a compositional similarity in style to Renaissance during their creative heyday. Whereby, even the strongest Judy Dyble supporters should know that a comparison to Annie Haslam would not be favourable to Ms. Dyble. Incidentally, through Talking to Strangers it becomes clear how sensitive a Folk drummer Pat Mostelotto is. The Judy Dyble / Tim Bowness duett, Grey October Day, takes on a jazzy feel thanks to a saxophone solo by Laurie A'Court.
And finally, the biggest surprise for me: the bonus track Sparkling. With harp and mellotron sounds as well as the mysterious feeling, I loved this track. Therefore, I have to declare a bonus track to be my favourite track and personal highlight of the album. Unfortunately, I could not find any details about the track. I assume that it, as in most cases, was recorded with the other tracks but the producers, Tim Bowness and Alistair Murphy, did not like it as much as the rest of the songs.
Talking to Strangers will be a dilemma listeners who wish to strictly separate the compositional structures of classic Prog from the flowing atmospheric forms of new millennial art rock. Those who don't believe that these two schools harmonize very well with each other, should have a listen to Talking to Strangers.
Translation by Mark Johnson