When hundreds of police and judicial officers were mobilized to evict the Gypsies at Dale Farm in Essex (the largest concentration of travellers in the UK) the TV cameras identified a young Irish traveller girl who stood, staring imploringly, directly into the camera lens.
She said “What will we do when all the hippies are gone?”
“The last one is leaving soon… Who will protect us then?” The girl was referring to the New Age travellers camped in the adjacent fields. These Peacenicks from ‘Dale Farm Solidarity’ had started leaving in their “peace convoys” before the anticipated trouble began. But the girl with the wide eyes and warning words haunted me for a long time after the event. “What will we do when all the hippies are gone?”
Elaine Samuels and her incredibly talented band may not be pleased to be compared with new age hippies. But, as it turns out, just like those disappearing Hippies — they too believe in beauty, love and honesty.
And they seek to explore the transitory nature of life on their new album ‘Phoenix Rising. ’ The album is a collection of their most recent songs (some written as long ago as 2000 – and some as recently as 2013) — and these songs have been thoroughly ‘road-tested’ to audiences around Surrey and West London.
The first song sets out the stall. ‘Kindred Spirit’ has soft shimmering beginnings and the main vocal (from songwriter and dynamic front-woman Elaine) is almost spoken at times (reminding us of Jefferson Airplane… Perhaps with Grace at her smokiest.)
Yet Elaine’s voice is sophisticated and clear — never San Francisco foggy — in its exposition. At times her voice is magnificently high — stepping daintily — and dancing with flute and tortured violin. This first track also has an exotic oriental flavour — with sounds fluttering freely from tall minarets of rhythm.
On “Life is a circus …” Elaine sings with accustomed ease. This is almost beat-pop in style and substance, but with some folk tradition still remaining intact.
Then follows the most Dylanesque song on the album. And also one of our favourites — the ominous ‘Wolves at the Door.’ In our new world the howling dogs are not contained outside the walls of the city. They do not bay at the city gates begging to come in. No, the beasts now live inside the walls with us. They sneak through our defenses to gnaw at us while we sleep.
These wolves will ooze through the optical fibres, sneak through radio waves, and romp through our networks. These days, a person’s soul can be eaten while he or she remain unconscious to the threat. The nervy guitars accentuate that threat, while fretful sax and lamenting violin create feelings of increasing anxiety.
We experience more Grace Slick on “It’s Not Too Late” — this time with sympathetic congas and illuminating violin.
This song seems to offer up some salvation from the wolves. But is the offering of help too late for us?
After a passionate, panting and haunting cover of “A Horse with No Name” and then the ‘Drunken Landlady’ we arrive at the brackish jig called “Feed the Fire”.
This has a charcoal riff and centres on the premise that we build our beds, our homes, our cities and our civilization… Higher, ever higher. Bolder, ever bolder.
But what will be the end result? Just a bigger burning ? A brighter pyre? The hippy message was to live each day day-by-day and to try not to store up needless possessions. After all, you cannot take any of it with you on judgment-day. And, anyway, all those goods tend to weigh down a soul.
This Kindred Spirit album seems all about facing up to the hidden dangers and the stored-up menaces presented to us in the modern world. But salvation is offered by the band. Through music. The sounds and words invite us to think freely. And create new aspirations for ourselves — peaceful, natural and spiritual. We should all contemplate staying close to those around us. To treasure those who love us. And we should try not to lose ourselves whilst we travel life’s difficult pathways.
‘Children of the Stars’ explores our journey. With some superb synth-work by Jez Larder, and yearning sax by Catherine Dimmock, plus some very impressive percussion from David Rowe, this is a mystical track.
No matter that this album contains some right-on New Age messages. Or that some of the songs (especially the last one — ‘The Phoenix’) might seem more at home on the soundtrack to “Hair” the Musical than on a modern disc. The subtexts and messages still remain vital and ought to be a fundamental source of inspiration.
The last song, with serpentine violin and extraordinarily subtle backing vocals, invites us to consider the burning of everything we once loved (and we think we need.) And then to address the rebirth of our existence. There is hope. But it is in flame. And in the rising stars of ash. Only the embers of our material substance will help us to be re-born. We must embrace our spirituality. Hold on to our nature. And retain our curiosity and fascination with the magic of our existence.
Maybe it’s true. Perhaps, now, all the hippies are gone.
But at least Kindred Spirit show us, here, how to live in dignity. And how to be prepared for re-birth.
This is a creative, progressive folk-rock album with some extraordinarily beautiful songs and a host of imaginative and wonderfully crafted ideas. Written for our generation.
Words: @neilmach 2015 ©
The Album launch show will be on Saturday, April 18th. St Augustine’s Church, Whitton, TW2 6DE
Find out how to get your ticket here:- http://www.elainesamuels.co.uk/PhoenixRisingAbout.htm