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The Flying Change: Dirty White Coats

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Album Review by Sarah Morrison of Miss Morrison’s Mix

The Flying Change, AKA songwriter Sam Jacobs and a selection of talented musicians, had an ingenious idea for spreading awareness and getting awesome coverage for his new record Pain is a Reliable Signal (released 19 May 2009). He gave it away for free to anyone who wanted it, in exchange for a promise that whoever downloaded it posted a review, a tweet or told a friend about it in exchange. It’s such a neat idea, and I’m such a pessimist, that I was almost convinced that the album would be awful and I’d have nothing nice to say about it – I was very wrong on that front. So here I am Sam, making good on the exchange.

Pain is a Reliable Signal Pain is a Reliable Signal is a labour of love in every sense of the phrase. It is a simple, honest, from-the-heart outpouring of an album, of the kind which comes along very rarely. Inspired by his wife’s (and his) experiences with the US health care system during a difficult time, this record draws you in and makes you feel every emotion that Jacobs feels – every pain, every moment of frustration, every fleeting hope and crushing blow.

It is accompanied by a growing track-by-track explanation of the songwriting process (the stories are still a work in progress) on his blog, of how each song came into being and what the feelings were behind it. In this way it is an interactive album, you can read the story along with each song and somehow feel more involved with the music, getting a rare, personal insight into the creative and emotional process of songcraft.

Jacobs’ voice and style is reminiscent of many of the great singer-songwriters of our time; the gravely tones of Cohen, the potent simplicity of Dylan and some charming, slightly off-key moments reminiscent of Neil Young. But I found myself concentrating not as much on the music or the voice, but instead on the powerfully emotive lyrics which weave the listener into every song in an inescapable mesh of  empathy and passionate emotion.

Musically it is a dreamy landscape of delicately layered pop, discordant symphonies of noise and back-to-basics singer-songwriter sensibilities with a whole host of talented musicians thrown in on top. The music of each song works to reflect the temperament of the lyrics and accentuate their emotive power, such that you can’t be a passive listener of this record – you are engrossed.

The whole record is a triumph both musically and lyrically, but there are a couple of songs that I want to mention specially because of their personal impact on me. ‘Dirty White Coats’ (featured on Insomnia Radio’s Daily Dose), for me sums up the whole feeling of this album; the frustrations that Jacobs felt at the flawed medical system that treated his wife and the pain it caused him to see her suffer, juxtaposed against a musical background of lightly plucked guitar and gentle, lulling strings. The second is the album’s closing song ‘The Northern Bay’, which with it’s final line softly utters, in a breaking voice, “I will take your pain away…”, and in a beautiful, fading cadence the album is brought to its conclusion. If you can listen to that song and not at least get goosebumps, then I don’t want to know you.

Download Pain is a Reliable Signal for free here, and be sure to promote it in any way you can. Tweet, blog or write about it, send it to your friends, just make sure this gets heard as far and as wide as possible :-)

Also read the song explanations (found underneath the download links), and check back for more as they appear. Plus, check out The Flying Change blog.

And if you’re feeling generous (and I think you should), you can purchase the album here.

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