Modern Folk Quartet

Changes

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With their first self-titled collection having received considerable lauds from peers and critics alike, the Modern Folk Quartet -- consisting of Cyrus Faryar (guitar, vocals), Henry "Tad" Diltz (banjo, vocals), Chip Douglas (bass, banjo, guitar, ukulele, bells, vocals), and Jerry Yester (guitar, vocal, cymbals) -- cut their 1964 follow-up, Changes, with an ear toward sustaining the fresh sound of their predecessor. Once again, they blend their arrangements and adaptations to another impressive lineup of modern compositions from the group's contemporaries. The hearty gospel-influenced opener, "Sing Out," sets the pace for a further slew of refreshing and spirited selections. Lee Hays of the Almanac Singers, Weavers, and Baby Sitters fame is the source for the midtempo down-and-outer "Time's a Getting' Hard," featuring an exceptional example of Douglas' reserved yet potent basslines. Phil Ochs' "The Bells" -- which the author derived from "The Birds" by Edgar Allan Poe -- provides a platform for the four-part vocal harmonies to unravel their unique slant on the song, keeping it fairly close to Ochs' original. The dark "In the Hills of Shiloh" stands out for its practically palpable foreboding and distinct contrast to the bombast of "Bullgine" and the cover of Bob Gibson's "Jordan's River" -- undoubtedly the impetus for the folk craze parody "Good Book Song" by the fictitious Main Street Singers from the cinematic spoof A Mighty Wind. By comparison, Gibson also supplied the stately historical ballad "St. Clair's Defeat," one of the zeniths of the effort. "Riu Chiu" is a 15th century Spanish ballad that may be familiar to fans of the Monkees, as the ersatz Fab Four used it to great effect, closing the Christmas episode of their 1966 television program with Micky Dolenz taking the a cappella lead. Bob Dylan's "Farewell" is likewise a focal point as the prominent banjo accompaniment gives the number a more rural texture and a less lonesome feel. Although the MFQ would not record a third long-player for Warner Bros., they did issue a handful of additional singles before splitting later in the decade, with all four members continuing to contribute to the pop/rock scene for the remainder of the decade and beyond.

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