Titled under the song off "Proud Words", an album as such it isn't, rather a retrospective of largely unreleased previously material of a quality that easily makes Ken Hensley stand out as one of the greatest tunesmiths of all time. Before him, only THE BEATLES could allow themselves a luxurious hubris of letting such gems gather dust somewhere deep in the vaults. Fortunately, the archives had been raided and treasures came unearthed for all to enjoy.
"From Time To Time" is a fitting title, as Ken seemed to be writing exactly that way - if one's ready to forget Hensley was an unstoppable conveyer providing songs for URIAH HEEP and only occasionally letting out the steam in his solo projects. There wasn't a line drawn between the band's and a solo activity. For one, "Rain" made it to both "The Magician's Birthday" and Ken's debut album, and here we have two original demos, "Take Care" and "Does Anything Matter", which eventually ended up on 1976's "Hign And Mighty" as, consequently, "Footprints In The Snow" and "Woman Of The World". Here, the group method is obvious: while lyrics changed very slightly, their connotations got intensified ("footprints" replacing "footsteps" point to result, not to a process, and "social diseases" gives more panoramic and ironic view to an issue than "people she teases"), and arrangements turned the songs drastically different. Monotone drift acoustic guitar on organ buzz of "Take Care" became dramatic and vocal polyphony applied to a chorus brush its angular melody off. As for "Does Anything Matter", on its way to the album, the song lost impressive piano lead that linked it to "Sgt. Pepper" (look for the references to "Fool On The Hill" or "Fixing A Hole") but gained a striding pace missing from the demo. From the same period comes "The Name Of The Game" featuring Simon Kirke, Mick Ralphs and Boz Burrell - that is, BAD COMPANY sans Paul Rodgers. Planned for inclusion on "Free Spirit", the song was recorded in 1976 during "High And Mighty" sessions, and Ken's, tight and disciplined, version (vocals re-recorded in 1994) feels much more expressive.
Still, these are not the earliest recordings on offer, in 1971 at Luxembourg Studios Hensley embarked on sessions with two FREE members, drummer Simon Kirke and the great late Paul Kossoff, whose smooth guitar is a main treat in four demos presented here. It's guitar part that makes "Cold Autumn Sunday" so poignant and mellow, compared to the "Proud Words" version, although "Black Hearted Lady" doesn't differs that much. Then, perhaps, "Longer Shadows" became ripe when it appeared on "Eager To Please" benefitting from synthesizer thread and bass groove yet lost was the intimacy - note "live" instead of "love" in the last line - and innocence underscored with thoughtful drum parts and vocal attitude. The champion of the sessions was, undoubtedly, "If I Had The Time", glorious in its simple sincerity and boasting one of the best solos from Koss, close to that of "Trouble On Double Time". (And is it Simon, going "and I want to" deep in the mix after "sun fall into sea" line?)
The last song here to have appeared before in any form is "Who Will Sing For You", a B-side to "In The Morning", a single off "Eager To Please. A real rarity, it had all the rights to pop up here, beautifully at odds melodically to the lyrics, catchy, heady and thus leading directly to "Free Spirit", both album and the track left off it. Finally, the song, with the rhytm section of Kenny Jones and Trevor Bolder, emerges here - and what an impact it does! Simple rocking guitars and a slice of organ, fat bass and prominent cymbals on chorus, "Free Spirit" has an optimistic edge, words "Now my time has come and I'm dealing with here and now" summarising the attitude - the mood of Ken's revival resulted in the "Running Blind" version of the song. That should be said, every track recorded during those sessions is arguably best than any of those released. Another one, committed to tape in 1980, is "Love At First Sight", a rollicking tune, a full contrast in lyrical terms to "The Name Of The Game", it featurs acoustic guitars so reeking of "Lady In Black" though effectively adorned and underpinned with Denny Ball's bass.
If these two tracks were deliberately done for "Free Spirit", there are some dated 1979. Ian Paice's drums make for a heartbeat of "Inspiration", a perfect showcase of Hensley's organ and slide playing, while his voice sounds rather raw, yet it proves curious to compare the song's main drift to the second half of "When" from "Spirit" - a twist in the tale, ain't it? But the most sublime moment comes with two gorgeous ballads, "You" and "Maybe You Can Tell Me", delicately orchestrated and boasting old friend B.J. Cole's pedal steel and Clare Torry's soaring voice, which flew to the stars in the PINK FLOYD's "Great Gig In The Sky". Here, going along double-tracked Ken's vocals create the gospel-like spiritual feel, as if predicting what would appear on "A Glimpse Of Glory" ("predicted some event from afar", like "You" goes). Waltzing "Maybe You Can Tell Me" a new take on "Your Turn To Remember" flow, both Beatle-ish tracks are kept tight by backbeat from Harrison and Clapton associate Henry Spinetti. And here it is, the third chapter in a trilogy that started off "Rain" and "The Easy Road, majestic "Guilty", sung clearly and deeply against the backdrop of Linton Naiff's piano and Jack Nitzsche-shaped strings.
Partly filling an almost 25-year gap of solo silence, Hensley proudly shows he had something on his hands even before joining BLACKFOOT. Having relocating to the US, in 1982 Ken held a demo session two fruits of which are "I Don't Wanna Wait" and "There Comes A Time". Former a typical '80s tune sprinkled with acoustic strum yet very uplifting and bearing an immediately memorable refrain, which makes it stand out, and a message ever-relevant, a reason for the song to be re-did for "Running Blind", while latter's a gentle Pat Leonard's piano-led melody embellished with sax and oboe. Two songs come filled with the same "crossroads" philosophy. No more "from time to time", time came for Ken Hensley to get out of shadows. An exit of amazing grace.