Changes, Pts. 1 & 2



I found this on Spotify’s “Discover Weekly.”

Since the service is run by algorithm there are more misses than hits on this playlist, but I go back every now and again to see what’s shaking and…

I’m not at a loss for recommendations, it’s just that too many are of acts where the hype exceeds the music. Everybody’s fighting for attention and most don’t get it.

I’d never heard of Neal Francis, at least I didn’t think I had. The name rang a distant bell, but maybe that was the DJ with a similar name, or the rugby player, who both spelled their first name “Neil.” I found this out when I started to research, and I also found out that Neal Francis does not have his own Wikipedia page, but if you Google him you find that he overcame his addiction to deliver this music… WHO CARES? I know you’re looking for a marketing angle, a story, but I’ve never even heard of this guy. Today you lead with the music, which oftentimes is the weakest part of the package.

I was completely burned out. That’s the best time to listen to new music. During the day there are too many distractions, and in the twenty first century everybody’s multitasking, seemingly no one sits alone on the couch and devours a new album and only a new album anymore.

I’d done my Sirius show, I had a couple of things to take care of on my computer, and I did, but then being mentally blitzed I decided to just surf the web and listen to music, and after hearing the oldies I wanted new stuff, which is what led me to Discover Weekly, not that it’s always new stuff.

Like the second song, a live version of “The Weight.” Actually, I skipped right over that.

As for the first, it was Low Cut Connie, which has a great rep, and this song had the right sound, just not the right changes, the song itself was substandard.

And the third song, “Domino” by Nicole Atkins,” was decent, but I didn’t let that play through, just like with the Low Cut Connie tune.

The fourth track was by the Brothers Osbourne. In the news lately because one of the brothers came out, brave of him, kudos. And I like the Osbornes, but this playlist had thirty songs in it and if I was gonna make it through, I had to skip, to…

Who knows. You get to the point where you’re not paying attention. Actually, that’s how I normally listen to playlists, on my phone, hiking, and I only check out the name when something catches my ear, otherwise I’m skipping through.

And “Changes, Pts. 1 & 2” started slow, I knew there was a change coming, so I didn’t hit the button to fast-forward, especially because the intro didn’t feature beats, a turn-off, very few employ them innovatively. And about thirty seconds in it came. With a guitar reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall.” And to tell you the truth I was not completely paying attention, and then, just shy of two minutes in, there was this strange horn riff, short, not extended, as if a note or two had been left out and I immediately looked at the second screen, where I keep my Spotify window, wanting to know…WHO IS THIS?

And that’s when I started Googling.

Meanwhile, the song keeps playing. There’s a guitar solo. Those horns… I’m not fast-forwarding past this! I told myself I had to hear it again, but it turned out I was barely halfway through, the song was six and a half minutes long. WHO ELSE KNEW ABOUT THIS? Obviously not too many, none of Francis’s tracks had a million streams on Spotify.

And now I’ve got the song on a loop. Loving the groove. Remembering the thrill of the old days, buying a record, getting stuck on it, playing it over and over again, high as a kite, not on drugs, but the tune itself, it being the only thing needed to make you feel good, to make you complete.

And then I’m wondering if it’s just the space I’m in. So I switch to hear other Neal Francis tunes, and they’re good, but not as good as “Changes, Pts. 1 & 2.”

So, further research takes me to a KCRW concert: Okay, the hipsters knew, and what usually happens in this case is there’s a show and it gets press and you become aware. But there are no tours now.

And watching the video all I can see is MONEY! A full band, a horn section, WHO IS PAYING FOR THIS? The label was Karma Chief Records. Never heard of it. But is it another one of these indies distributed by a major? I keep researching, and I cannot find a connection. Although it does turn out, and I only found this out today, digging even deeper, that Karma Chief is a division of Colemine Records, from Ohio of all places, but it turns out this is the company that releases the Black Pumas. So now it starts to come together. Someone’s got a deep pocket. But who is investing in this music, which falls between the cracks, out of date, anything but hip, but so SATISFYING!

The truth is listening to “Changes, Pts. 1 & 2” I thought all the track needed was a different singer, and then it would be a smash, I could recommend it. But that’s not how they form bands these days, you can’t tell anybody they’re not good enough, they insist on being the singer.

Meanwhile, this track is so FUNKY! It’s like everything that happened in the past two decades didn’t. Maybe three or four. But, “Changes, Pts. 1 & 2” is not retro, other than in influence. It’s anything but hip-hop, and it’s far from pop, and if you think they’d ever play this on Active Rock radio you’ve never made the devil horns. Where in hell would they play this stuff?

Non-comms I guess. But the old idea of starting in non-commercial radio and crossing over to the big time, that’s done. Non-comm is its own universe. Mostly middle-aged people wanting to hear new rock-influenced music. And some of it deserves a wider audience, but most of it does not.

So, what is a hit song?

It’s something you FEEL! Something you hear and have to hear immediately once again. Something you need to tell people about. Other than that, a song can sound like ANYTHING! Ergo, “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” There’s no recipe, you’re always starting with a blank slate. And the key is to digest the influences and concoct them into something new, with your personal input. Which is why me-too does not resonate. We’re all looking for that which is indescribable and fresh.

But I did not write about “Changes, Pts. 1 & 2,” because I wondered if it would still sound as good today. That’s the test. AND IT DOES! I don’t want to turn it off, I don’t want to leave this mood!

And I could look up the words online, but I don’t really care about them, that’s not what the high of the track is. First and foremost it’s the changes, too often nonexistent in today’s one chord world. And then those damn horns. It’s like Al Kooper called the recording studio and told them to use them, because no one else is, at least not real horns. They were all over soul music, more than white rock and roll, but horns are not the sound of today’s popular Black music.

And along with recovery, the hype talks about Neal Francis’s influences being Dr. John and Leon Russell. Dr. John’s material was not as great as his playing, sorry, but Leon Russell fired on all cylinders, could deliver everything, and was in the background until the world was ready for him as a solo act. His ticket to stardom was his work with Joe Cocker, the Asylum Choir stiffed.

But who is going to lift up Neal Francis? There is no scene, nothing universal we’re all hooked into. But, then you hear something like “Changes, Pts. 1 & 2” and wonder why it isn’t front and center, it being more fresh than almost anything in the Spotify Top 50. Come on, you can fast-forward through an entire playlist without stopping, nothing reaches out and grabs you, demands attention. That’s the case with most popular stuff. It doesn’t touch your SOUL!

And maybe “Changes, Pts. 1 & 2” won’t touch yours. But play it twice and tell me it doesn’t. Those horns are like cocaine, the effect is brief and intense and then you just want more, more, MORE! And your mind is on this wild adventure, akin to the one you used to take in your bedroom, in the basement, maybe with the speakers turned up, maybe with headphones on, drowning out the world that did not accept you, burying yourself in a world that did. That’s why the best and the brightest just had to be involved in music.

You’re either on the bus or off the bus. Either you get “”Changes, Pts. 1 & 2” or you don’t. And if you do?

You won’t want to turn it off, you’ll be smiling, getting that feeling you thought was gone, but it turns out it was just dormant inside you.

Maybe you have to get up and dance, even if you’ve never done so with anybody around. The music gets inside you and your body must move, even if you’re just sitting in your chair.


Doing it your way, in a way one without history/practice cannot, following your own muse to create something that satisfies you and thus satisfies US ALL! The major labels are not in this business, more than ever they’re about commerce, who cares what they’re worth on the stock exchange, that’s not what it’s about.

And almost all of the people clamoring they’re not making enough money to live their lives as a musician don’t deserve to.

But Neal Francis does.

“Changes, Pts. 1 & 2” at Coachella would be a smash. It’d kind of be like having Sam & Dave front the Blues Brothers. But with much younger players. This music is forever, it’s undeniable, I’M SO EXCITED!

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