An illustrious name from the past, Judy Dyble. Singer in the pre Sandy Denny era on the debut album of Fairport Convention, member of Trader Horne, working with Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald and the Giles brothers late 60s and Lol Coxhill. After these artistic successes, she started another life of raising children, along with Simon Stable (once member of Ten Years After), and work outside the music industry. But blood is thicker than water and since some years ago, Dyble is back in the game. And how!
Dyble searched and found collaborators in the person of Tim Bowness and Alistair Murphy, who both contributed to the composition and in the implementation of "Talking with Strangers". Murphy and Bowness co-wrote six of the nine songs, are active in all tracks and as a result the album breathes the atmosphere of No Man. Dyble also made use of her former connections, resulting in the participation of Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald and Pat Mastelotto.
Judy Dyble still has that beautiful voice that is so suited the folk music she used to make so well, and that works perfectly with the vocals and harmonies by Tim Bowness. Although these folk influences on this album still exist, there is a clear progressive approach to it. The influence of Bowness is apparent here. Like in the beautiful opener 'Neverknowing' and the strong, indeed a bit jazzy sounding "Jazz Birds". Especially Grey October Day 'pleases me very much and that could ,if slightly altered, also have been a track off a No-Man album.
The absolute highlight are the more than 19 minutes of "Harp Song", the most progressive song from "Talking with Strangers", which fully indulges Fripp on guitar and soundscapes and Ian McDonald wonderful plays some wonderful melodies on both sax and flute. Much is happening, both in structure and composition of the track as well as in terms of instrumentation. There are great dynamics and variety and it remains exciting from beginning to end. "Harp Song" is supposed to be about Dyble's life, and reading her biography, I can see how that's true.
The album is now reissued by Gonzo and contains two bonus tracks, 'Waiting' and 'Sparkling', which are not inferior to the rest. The only thing I didn't really like was the Greg Lake / Pete Sinfield cover 'C'est la Vie' which was a bit too sweet for me. (The guy also states he doesn't like covers in general, but that was a bit hard to translate)
While we discussed the wonderfully packaged album here Judy Dyble has done more collaborations Bowness, resulting in the EP 'Grey October Day' from 2011, and Alistair Murphy. A good and fertile collaboration as this clearly calls for more.