Cris Williamson’s 40th All-Star Anniversary

A 40th All-Star Anniversary with a two-day retrospective of the great Cris Williamson’s milestone album ‘The Changer and the Changed’

A 40th All-Star Anniversary with a two-day retrospective of the great Cris Williamson’s milestone album ‘The Changer and the Changed’

Listening to this album was an awakening of sorts for me. Almost shamefully I must admit I had not discovered (for myself) American feminist folk-rock singer-songwriter Cris Williamson and her music before this point.

For her avid fans, she is a musician who has withstood the test of time, with a voice and sound similar to the greats Joni Mitchel and Carole King. Her music speaks to women all over the world and has done so for 40 years.

In fact, some 40 years ago Cris and a group of lesbians set forth and created the collective Olivia Records. Together they recorded and released Cris Williamson’s The Changer and the Changed.

What they couldn’t know at the time was that this album would become one of the most successful recordings of the time and was destined to spark the music genre that would be known as Women’s Music.

This year The Changer and the Changed celebrates its 40th anniversary.  It is easy when you listen to it to hear exactly why it resonates with so many.  “Waterfall” begins with a haunting lilt that continues to flow through the song and builds into the chorus underpinned by a piano line that you can’t help but hum along to as it grooves through to the end. “Wild Things” is dark and brooding a sound that always speaks to me – I’m always drawn to the slow emotional plight of a song.

With sounds stooped in country and folk it’s an album that speaks to you like all the greats have, and listening to it 40 years on, it has not aged a day—and its message is still relevant. As we get to “Song Of The Soul” my mind takes me to a sing-a-long of epic proportions where you are truly singing from deep within.

Equally I can see this having been sung at many a music festival with fervor. This is the kind of song that artists only dream about writing and for Cris it’s the song that came from deep within her soul.

To celebrate The Changer and the Changed milestone anniversary Cris is having a two-day retrospective at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage on January 10 &11. It will feature Vicki Randle, Barbara Higbie, Shelley Doty and Julie Wolf with other special guests.

For those lucky enough to have secured tickets (they are sadly now all sold out) it promises to be one magnificent celebration. For those who missed out on tickets there you can continue the celebration this coming May with Olivia’s Alaska Inside Passage and Glaciers Cruise (check Cris’ website for full details).

To compliment the anniversary of The Changer and the Changed, Cris has a new album Pray Tell. Comprising of two discs, Pray Tell continues to bring her fans heartfelt songs inspired by her spiritual journey and appreciation for Mother Nature.

Caressed by Cris’ warm voice she soothes you as her lyrics tell her stories of spiritual awakenings and messages of love and dreams. Lucky enough to speak with Cris this week she shares with me some thoughts on her feelings on this up and coming anniversary and the inspiration for Pray Tell.

This is a musician who spurred a generational change back in an era when being “out” was not accepted, teaching lesbians through her music that it is okay to love who you love.

Cris and I recently grabbed a quick chat on the eve of the 40th anniversary show:

The Changer & The Changed is coming up on its 40th Anniversary—how does it make you feel knowing that it’s having such a milestone anniversary?

It feels miraculous!  This music still holds true for so many, myself included.  Still, it’s hard to believe so many years have passed.

Did you ever imagine that it (The Changer & The Changed) would have such an impact and speak to women so profoundly over these years?

I did not imagine that at all. I was working so hard at the time to produce the album, so in the time-frame of the now-that-was-then that I scarcely could think beyond the days, one at a time. I am, however, so grateful for its profound effect then and now.

Where has the inspiration for your latest album Pray Tell come from? 

It’s come out of my daily spiritual search, my lessons along the way, my study and my instructions, Mother Nature, herself, all things natural, dreams and visions.

You teach songwriting, what is the best piece of advice you can give a musician who is seeking their voice?  

Listen to that voice, know it as your own, believe in it.  Everything you need is already there.  Learn easy discipline, keep the joy, write in Universals thereby escaping self-indulgence and sadness.

Tell your fans what they can expect from your sold out show at the Freight & Salvage.

They may expect great music all night long—some from the band, and the entire album to close out the night. There will be a photo display from Irene Young in the lobby, CDs from all the musicians for sale, and joyous reunions all the way round. Hopefully, it’ll be a great reminder of the beauty we all made and that still holds us so well.