4hero are that rare sort of group whose career refuses to be summed up in the narrow bounds of a 300 word review. Suffice to say, they were there at the birth of Jungle and have played the role of the scene’s eccentric uncles ever since, following their muses under a slew of aliases. Though they’ve been busy with other projects, this is their first new album since 2001’s Creating Patterns. Where that album alternated classic tunes with driving left-field instrumentals, Play With The Changes is much more straightforward.
The album bursts into life with a lightning break before acquiring strings, horns, harp and Carina Anderson, familiar to 4hero fans from the previous album’s standout cover version, “Les Fleur”. “Morning Child” is best described as anthemic soul. “Take My Time” continues in like fashion with a slightly more electronic, funkier edge. “Sink Or Swim” is all Fender Rhodes and a stop-start broken beat rhythm. Two exceptions to the album’s silky flow come towards the end with “Why Don’t You Talk”, a track that sounds surprisingly like jazz rock and the brief guitar-led finale, “Dedication To The Horse”.
Almost every track has at least one guest, including the likes of 70s superstar songwriter/producer Larry Mizell, broken beat musicians Bembe Segue and Kaidi Tatham, and street poet Ursula Rucker. The latter’s mother earth focus signals a rare moment of unease and echoes her lyrical contribution on “Loveless”, the opening track on 1998’s Two Pages. The ever-shifting personnel gives the album a sense of variety, both in terms of vocals and rhythms. However, there’s no loss of cohesion due to 4hero’s production skills and, in particular, their string arrangements. Play With The Changes is a breath of summer sunshine. Its sophisticated affirmation is welcome, though it’s difficult not to mourn the loss of 4hero’s experimental edge.
(Κείμενο: Colin Buttimer, BBC)