Friday, October 30, 2015

#58 CHANGE IN THE WIND by Paul Clark (1978)

CHANGE IN THE WIND by Paul Clark - 1978
Seed Records - PSR-007
This one was cool.

This one evoked images of dark shades, sleek sports cars, shiny saxophones and sharp clothes. It had a jazz feel, a jazz attitude --performed by an artist with a passion for soul-winning.

Change in the Wind was Paul Clark’s sixth album, and it built on the jazz foundation of its immediate predecessor, Hand to the Plow. Clark himself has described Change as a “sequel” to Plow. Change in the Wind was a hybrid of sorts, a pleasing mix of rock, jazz and R&B with just a touch of traditional Jesus Music. The lyrics were smart and street-wise, penned by a man with the heart of an evangelist.

Paul Clark's story differed from that of many of Jesus Music's other founders in
Paul Clark with The Kommotions (Mid-60s)
that he was Midwesterner, not a California kid. Born in Kansas City as part of a loving family, Paul was tremendously impressed with pro athletes and a certain British rock group (his love of sports and music both continue to this day). He and his friends started a band called The Kommotions and from there he began to experiment with the recreational drugs that were so much a part of "life in the Sixties" for his generation. Paul subsequently grew his hair long, dropped out of college, and moved to a cabin in a remote area of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. There he was, an 18 year old hippie from Middle America, taking drugs and writing songs with a small circle of friends in a log cabin, 9,800 feet above sea level, pursuing a dream of musical stardom surrounded by the amazing beauty of God's creation, but having no relationship with the Author of that creation.

That would soon change.

Paul had actually sensed a spiritual void in his life -- a God-shaped hole, if you will. He had begun a search by studying books on various religions and religious practices that were popular with hippies of that era -- Transcendental Meditation, the Bghavad Gita, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and others. One day the mailman brought a box of books about Jesus that Paul’s grandmother had sent. After reading about Jesus, the light came on for Paul Clark. "I woke up and went out on the porch and it felt like someone had come and drilled holes in my head and pumped in oxygen for the first time in my life,” Clark told Devlin Donaldson in a 1999 interview. “Everything was like new.”

It was a dramatic conversion story, leading to some of the most important albums of the Jesus Movement era. Two of them have already been covered in this countdown: Songs From the Savior Vol. 1 and Good to Be Home.

Clark’s early albums were simple, acoustic-based Jesus Music…toe-tapping folk-rock, typical of the era. Few expected him to be the first artist to bring jazz-fusion to the attention of the young CCM industry. The Sweet Comfort Band, James Vincent and Koinonia would follow his lead, giving jazz a wider hearing within Christendom. But Paul Clark went there first.

His classic 1976 offering, Hand to the Plow, was the first time Clark experimented with a jazz/rock fusion. And (spoiler alert!) that album will be thoroughly explored later in our countdown. Change in the Wind would build on the momentum established on Plow.

“Well, it was a good sequel to Hand to the Plow,” Paul Clark told Jerry Bryant in an interview for Bryant’s Full Circle radio show. “The Jesus Movement really was over. By this time, 1977, the Jesus Movement hit the beach and washed out to sea. And I felt like there was a new season that was coming for the body of Christ, and I wanted to write songs that would have a new power for that. I also continued to pursue my love for jazz-rock music.”

Change in the Wind was included, of course, in the Minstrel’s Voyage Digital Reissue Collector’s Edition CDs, made available by Paul Clark himself in 1990. The liner notes state that the album represented a new focus for Paul, lyrically, as he was now turning his attention away from Christians and speaking more to unbelievers.  

On Side One, Paul hits the ground running with the title track. A short twin-guitar lead intro get us right into the opener, an up-tempo rocker that presents the Gospel in sort of a soft-sell allegory. The song features Don Juntnen’s lead guitar work and a couple of well-placed synthesizer elements from keyboardist Richard Bugg. Clark sounds very much at ease as he sings about “the anchor of hope that’s attached to the boat of faith…”

Ounce of Prevention sounds an important warning…and has cool dripping off of it. The musicians settle into a really nice groove on this one, as Clark plays off of an old maxim and sings about truth with a capital T:

Truth protects the heart, mind and soul
Taken as directed, it’s for sure
Guard your heart against self-deception
‘Cause an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.   

Jim Hochanadel’s saxophone makes an appearance, along with a full horn section.

Paul’s inner evangelist was front and center on He Wouldn’t Lie:

You’ve heard it said that God is dead
And friend I thought the same
But then the fire of His desire set my heart aflame

The female background singers jump in and help him out on the chorus:

He said all things become new (yes, He said they would)
And I still can’t believe that it’s true (but I know it is)
‘Cause I’ve seen the look in His eyes
And I know He wouldn’t lie to me

The song features what reviewer Ken Scott called “robust brass backing and vibrant electric guitar.” It ends with guitar and saxophone trading lead licks.

Side One concludes with another rocker, Me In You. On this track Clark again seems to have found a device for sharing the Gospel in a fresh way, this time using a dream sequence.

Paul Clark (L) with Phil Keaggy (Mid-70s)

In 1999 Clark sat down with Devlin Donaldson and opened up about his change of direction toward evangelism and about his views regarding the purpose of music: “Music is a great gift from God,” Paul Clark said. “Music is perhaps the most powerful language on this planet. I’ve never been one to shy away from being willing to learn the skills of music that people in the world listen to because, first of all, all music comes from God. It’s a gift from God. Secondly, I was an evangelist. If I was to go to a rock hall, to a major rock crowd and try to influence them for Christ, I’m not going to show up with an accordion band. That’s not going to work. That’d be great at a polka festival, but not in that pool. In the pool I was fishing in, I needed bait on my hook that was relevant. So Change in the Wind was pretty much in keeping with, I listened to Steely Dan and groups like that that influenced me musically. I thought, ’I could learn those chords. I could play that style!’ And I started developing a musical style around what people were listening to. Cause really, the music is just the bed for the message to lay in. And the message is what I was focused on – I was learning God’s Word more and more and more, and trying to use catchy ways to preach the Gospel of Christ in truth, without compromise or watering it down, and trying to use a musical bed that would get people’s attention. Back then I was scorned a lot, to be honest with you. I was actually scorned and kind of rebuked a lot even by Christians that said, ‘Hey, there’s a limit to this thing. You’re so much into the beat and these back rhythms and jazz instruments; you sound just like the world!’ And I was like, ‘Great! Thanks for the compliment!’”

After about 3 and a half minutes, the up-tempo portion of Me Without You fades out completely; at that point a soft, acoustic treatment of the song is presented, with the words “Love One Another” fading out to end Side One.

Paul Clark played guitar on this record, sang all lead vocals, and contributed occasional harmony vocals as well. 

Clark certainly assembled an impressive supporting cast for Change in the Wind, most notably Hadley Hockensmith, Harlan Rogers and Bill Maxwell. The three had played together in the early 70s under the moniker Sonlight, and had served as backing musicians for Andrae Crouch & the Disciples. They would eventually reunite in the 1980s to form the nucleus of a group called Koinonia, serving up the greatest jazz recordings in Christian music. Maxwell, of course, was also a talented producer. He was at the helm for several highly successful albums by Andrae Crouch and Keith Green.

Percussionist Keith Edwards later played drums for Amy Grant and several well-known country artists; his sister Rhenda Edwards provided female backing vocals along with Judy Cotton.

Change in the Wind was recorded in the fall of 1977 and released the following year. It was engineered by Bob Cotton at Associated Recorders in Oklahoma City, and mixed at Hollywood Sound by John Guess. The album was mastered by the Grammy Award winning Bernie Grundman.

As Side Two gets underway, David Powell is featured on a lovely, haunting reprise of the title track, performed this time entirely on strings.

On the funky Come On, Clark is speaking to unbelievers for whom doubt has become a prison cell of sorts:

If you’ll just believe
You’ll see how faith can be conceived
Unlock the door…

Bill Maxwell
Curt Bartlett turns in a couple of tasteful guitar solos, complete with a little wah-wah action. Toward the end of the song Bill Maxwell simply puts on a clinic on drums. Maxwell’s work on this song is worth the price of admission. Then, just as the band is building to a crescendo, the song inexplicably fades out.

Called My Name found Clark in a soft-jazz mood, previewing Kenny G by about half a decade. It’s a song that talks about growth…maturity…change. It brings to mind the whole concept of remaining firmly in touch with your first love:

Through the years it’s seemed consistent
Some things change, some stay the same
Though I intend to keep on growing, I won’t forget
The joy that filled my heart when You called my name

Harlan Rogers’ Fender Rhodes and Jim Hochanadel’s saxophone are a perfect complement to this tune.

Harlan Rogers
The album’s final trio of songs are a reminder that, as Paul has said, the purity and fresh joy of the Jesus Movement was unfortunately in the rear view mirror by the time Change in the Wind was recorded. Are You Still With Us is a funky rocker that addresses those who had perhaps wandered from the faith:

As time goes by it can be simple
For apathy to set in
You’ve heard so much and done so little
You’ve learned to harness conviction
Are you still with us in serving the Lord?

Instrumentally, Hochanadel steals the show on this one.

Encounter at Caneel Bay is a piano-based ballad that tells what seems to be a very personal story of a witnessing opportunity that Paul took advantage of once upon a time:

We met out on the beach at night so long ago
Both contemplating life, but you, you seemed so low
Unvarnished and tarnished, visibly torn
Deductively you told of every worthwhile choice
But then I spoke these words with firm but gentle voice
Believing in hope that you would hear

He took the dark out of your eyes so we can see
The promises He gives are good if only we’ll believe
He took the light and He shined it in our eyes
The love that He displayed became
The love that we should live by…today

Unlike many CCM songs of the era, this one does not resolve with a happy ending:

As day approached we watched the dawn give light to sea
Nothing was said, but how your eyes spoke words to me
Morning sun came, like dew you were gone

So many days have passed since I last saw your face
I’ve walked this beach at night in hope to find a trace
But knowing full well you heard what I said

Clocking in at over 6 minutes, it’s the longest song on the album.

Rounding out the album is a song that, musically, is a throwback to Paul’s earlier Jesus Music. Come Back Home acknowledges our hurts and struggles and laments our penchant to fall away from God’s grace. Clark does not shy away from delineating a number of potential traps and hazards for all of us -- compromise, rejection, deception, loneliness, self-righteousness. The song ends with a plea for the listener to return home:

Hey, don’t you know that it’s true
The blood shed for you is the healing
You’re forgiven…come back home

“There’s an acoustic song that ends the album – Come Back Home – that was not jazz,” Paul told Jerry Bryant. “It was more my roots from acoustic guitar. That song got a lot of mileage because that song was written specifically to people that had fallen away from the Lord. It was a powerful song. Still is. Deception comes in one bite at a time. Adam didn’t eat the whole orchard, he took one bite.”

And with that, Change in the Wind ends with both a warning and an invitation.

The move toward jazz-rock fusion that Paul Clark began on Hand to the Plow and strengthened on Change in the Wind, would be fully realized two years later on Aim for the Heart. After that, Clark transitioned into more of a pop direction with a trio of highly regarded albums on Myrrh Records.

All told, the renaissance man known as Paul Clark has released at least 17 solo recording projects, written more than 400 songs, and has served as a worship leader and pastor. He's an author, a golfer, a world traveler and a published photographer.

"I find myself today with a very short attention span for comfort,” Clark admits. “I am a gypsy at heart. I love to explore. I get jealous of people who get to go out to places and preach the gospel where there isn't really anything going on. I want to be in that place."

Paul Clark today

As for future plans, “I intend to keep my hand to the plow spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Clark says. “By His grace, I honor the past, embrace the present, and possess a living hope for the future. I want to finish strong in whatever path He chooses for me. Hardship to joy, the jewels are collected along the way, not, as some perceive, at the final destination. Once there, we will cast our jeweled crowns at the feet of Jesus. Before His throne, I will long to see His face and hear His loving voice say, ‘Well done thy good and faithful servant.’"

And, happily, the voyage continues.