Keyboardist Gary Wright is the New Jersey-born psychology student who landed in London at the height of the rock revolution in 1967, where he founded Spooky Tooth and had a successful solo career producing the classic hits "Dream Weaver" and "Love Is Alive." Wright recorded Ring of Changes in 1972 with Wonderwheel, a band featuring Mick Jones, who would go on to found Foreigner, Lindisfarne bassist Tom Duffey and John Bonham-influenced drummer Bryson Graham, with Jones and Graham later joining him and Mike Harrison in a reunited Spooky Tooth. The planned follow-up to Wright's two previous solo albums for A&M Records, 1970's Extraction and 1971's Footprint, the finished record was released for the first time to digital retailers through UMe and as a CD by Cherry Red internationally on July 29.
"I hadn't listened to it in 40 years, but when I put it on, I thought to myself, 'I can't believe this was never released,'" says Wright. "It was more of a rock album than what I had done, but I think it stands up alongside anything that you might hear being played on Classic Rock radio around the world. I hope that people will be surprised by the material. I'm proud of it and I'm glad it's finally coming out so everyone can hear what we did all those years ago."
Produced by Wright and one of the first albums to be recorded at the newly opened Apple Studios on Saville Row, Ring of Changes is remarkably eclectic in style, ranging from the funky blues of "Goodbye Sunday," with lyrics by Gary's sister Lorna Lee, featuring a George Harrison slide guitar solo that sounds like an outtake from All Things Must Pass (which Wright famously played on) to the Crosby, Stills & Nash folk-rock harmonies and Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven" feel of the album's epic closer, "Creation."
"That was the track that got me when I listened to the album again," said Wright.
There are also stylistic nods to The Band in the soulful country of "Set on You," a rollicking Mad Dogs and Englishmen feel to the Hugh McCracken-penned "Something for Us All" and the previously released single, "I Know" (a bonus track which never appeared on the original album) with its The Who meets Bad Company flourish. "Goodbye Sunday" was previously released by the German label Ariola after it was featured in a ski documentary.
Wright, who was originally introduced to George Harrison by his Hamburg mate Klaus Voormann, who played bass on Gary's first two solo albums, explains how the Beatle ended up playing slide guitar on "Goodbye Sunday," which was not the first time either – Harrison had previously played on Footprint under the pseudonym George O'Hara.
"We were in the studio and I was showing him the song," explains Wright. "He just started playing slide guitar and came up with that line, which I think really worked."
Wright was an American student in Germany when he formed the band the New York Tymes, who were the openers for Traffic's very first gig in Oslo, Norway, where he was introduced by his New Jersey buddy, producer Jimmy Miller, to Island chief Chris Blackwell, who put Gary with members of a band called Art to form Spooky Tooth.
Wright first played keyboards on Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity," then went on to play on most of the rest of the All Things Must Pass album, as well as George's sessions for Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy" and "Back Off Boogaloo." The pair became lifelong friends, sharing an interest in Eastern religions, with Wright contributing to several of Harrison's solo albums. Wright also played keyboards on Nilsson's classic "Without You." Upon signing with Warner Bros. in 1975, Wright released his classic album Dream Weaver, which produced a pair of hit singles in the title track and "Love Is Alive."
Wright remains an active presence on the touring circuit, having gone on the road in recent years with Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band and Hippiefest, as well as releasing albums on his own Larkio Music label. Wright will perform several dates with Al Stewart this summer, including:
August 19 The Kent Stage in Kent, OH
August 20 The Wildy Theatre in Edwardsville, IL
August 21 The Meyer Theatre in Green Bay, WI
"All good things last," says Wright about the album's appeal after all these years. "That music had the power to endure because of the songwriting and lyrical content. All those bands had something very special. It's stood the test of time."
The complete album track list for Ring of Changes:
2. Wild Bird
3. Something for Us All
4. Set on You
5. Ring of Changes
6. Goodbye Sunday
7. For a Woman
8. Workin' on a River
10. I Know (bonus track)
11. What Can We Do (bonus track)
12. Somebody (bonus track)