Over the last few years, I slowly stopped writing and reviewing. I let the site go down and kept my thoughts to myself. I couldn’t get over the hump, I just couldn’t fight off whatever demons held me back from what I love. Neal Francis’s new album “Changes” touched me, it was a hand reaching down into the murky depths of my malaise and giving me something I really wanted to share, something I wanted everyone to hear.
For Neal, this album is his own road back, from a life left behind for the dark sweetness of addiction and all the humbling horror it creates around you and for the ones you love. How have I lived comes across as a cry to a higher power and the rest of the album is an illustration of regret, anger and eventually rising above.
Focusing his New Orleans gained superpowers to create flourishes of Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and Leon Russell, Neal creates a solid funk and soul album that is as danceable as it is thought provoking. It is a journey, with Lauren being a literal trip you can follow on a map that includes a cruise up I-35 from San Antonio to Austin. The bopping rhythm carries you along while hiding the darkness within the lyrics.
Neal has serious keyboard skills and a rare gift for crafting earworm hooks. At one time or another I have had every damn song stuck in my head for at least a day. From the hopeful promise of This Time to the gospel lyrics of Put It in his Hands you can share the energy Neal feels with his reborn life and the steady ground of each moment’s sober success under his feet. The success of simply moving forward in a life, with his gift still intact.
It took me six months to finally begin rebuilding my love affair with sharing my musical thoughts, finds and ideas with the world again. It is in no small part due to the overpowering desire to try and share this masterpiece with everyone who would listen. Give “Changes” a spin and see if it doesn’t help you resurrect an old passion. Just make sure you have that New Orleans funk as the soundtrack for whatever you do next.
Pick up your copy of Changes from your local record store or online here