Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Livesays: “Not What I Bargained For” (2021) CD Review

The Livesays are a rock band fronted by Billy Livesay, who played in Clarence Clemons’ band Temple Of Soul for several years. In 2016, The Livesays released Hold On…Life Is Calling, which featured former band member Tim Murphy returning to play on a few tracks, and Eddie Zyne, who played drums with The Monkees on their 1986 reunion tour. In 2018, Eddie Zyne died, and then in 2020 the pandemic provided further trouble, as venues closed and musicians found themselves unemployed. The Livesays had recorded much of The Rhythm Of Love And Dysfunction before that, and managed to finish it in 2020, releasing it in the fall. Now the band is back with a new album, with Tim Murphy back as an official member. Howard Goldberg now plays drums with the band, though three tracks do feature drum work by Eddie Zyne. Not What I Bargained For features mostly original material, written or co-written by Billy Livesay.

The album opens with “Two Sides,” a driving rock song whose opening lines caught me by surprise: “I didn't know what I was getting into/When I posted that picture on my Instagram/The crazies came out swinging/What the hell was I thinking when I posted that?” I still find it odd when singers mention Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. Something in me still believes (or hopes?) these things to be fleeting, and not worthy of immortalization in song. That being said, this is a really good song about the effect of social media and the rampant misinformation found there. “It’s true, it’s true, there’s a conspiracy/I know because I read it in the news feed/Ideas about religion and politics/Two sides along with the ridiculous.”  I appreciate the way the band uses some humor here while making a point. In the last five years we’ve had to maintain a sense of humor; otherwise we’d have called an end to the entire thing. “Families torn apart by opinion over fact/And friendships ruined that won’t be coming back/Some ignorant fool refusing to believe the world is melting.” You know, people say that are two sides to every story. But that is horseshit with regards to many of the current stories. Their “side” is garbage; the side that says climate change doesn’t exist, the side that says the 2020 election was stolen, the side that says the pandemic is a hoax. All garbage. But on social media those fools have a voice. The real question is, What the hell do we do with those people? Anyway, this is a strong opening track, one you can dance to, and clearly one that can also get you thinking.

“One More Chance” has quite a different feel and subject. It’s a sweet song about a lonely, older man who is caught in memories but wants to create a future for himself. “Reminiscing about his wife that passed/How the years have flown by so fast/He’s reminded of his loneliness every time he sees her face/When his mind replays the movies of another time and place.” In all the current craziness, one thing that has kept me from exploding is being able to hold my girlfriend. I can’t imagine existing right now alone. This song is about needing one more chance at love. “One more chance is all he’s asking for/One more chance at love/And one more chance to feel the warmth/Like holding someone does/And one more chance to walk along this lonely avenue/With someone needing one more chance and feeling lonely too.” That’s followed by “What I Bargained For,” which is sort of the title track, though not quite. Check out these lines, which open the song: “I took my love to another place/All I wanted was to get a taste/But I consumed the whole damn plate/It isn't what I bargained for.” Both “One More Chance” and “What I Bargained For” feature Eddie Zyne on drums. Then “Drunkard’s Lament” also features a lonely, older man who looks back, but keeps that past in his present by not being able to get over a woman he knew back then. This track features some good guitar work. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Sometimes I sleep about a week/It can take maybe two to sober up/When I recall the hurtful things I did/I get drunk and do it all again/Now blacking out is my best friend/It keeps me from remembering/I’m just trying to get over/The girl I loved a long, long time ago.” That’s followed by “Show A Little Honesty,” which is a lament too, of sorts, and also mentions regrets, though this one is about a present relationship. “In my heart I know you love me/But there are things I can’t accept/Little secrets you’re not telling me/That lead to my regrets.” In this song he is asking just for honesty, something we should expect from everyone, and especially those close to us. However, these days, honesty is sadly a rare commodity. “No more smoke and mirrors/It’s the truth I’m looking for” are lines we could sing to many of our politicians. I love the guitar work after those lines.

The first of only two covers on this album is “Hold Me,” a song from the 1930s written by Jack Little, Dave Oppenheim and Ira Schuster. In the 1960s it was covered by P.J. Proby, and in the early 1980s it was recorded by B.A. Robertson and Maggie Bell (that latter record featuring a guy named Billy Livsy on keyboards - coincidence?). These guys do a good job with this song, delivering a sweet rendition. Then an intimate vibe is created for “In A Small Town.” I grew up in a very small town, and so lines like “And strangers are looked upon like aliens and life is so mundane” and “In a small town where everybody talks/About who's lovin’ who and who’s got what” totally click with me. But the lines that especially stand out are these: “She’s got everything she needs and doesn’t want to leave this small town/But I could not persuade her, it seems my dreams evade her/She says she’s happy, but I have my doubts.” Dana Keller plays pedal steel on this track. The second cover is Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind,” a song from his 1992 album Lucky Town. The Livesays deliver a beautiful and powerful rendition.

“In Troubled Times” is a song title for these days, isn’t it? What went wrong in 2016? And why can’t we get back on the right path now that the orange conman is out of the White House? This track isn’t exactly about that, but rather about a troubled youth in troubled times, and it has a great bluesy edge. “The game of life is for grownup shoes/And the odds are fifty-fifty that he’s going to lose.” Plus, it has a Shakespeare reference: “When the slings and arrows start to fly.” That line refers to Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy, where he says: “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,/And by opposing end them?” Using that reference illustrates just how much trouble fate is throwing the kid’s way in this song. That’s followed by a song that directly addresses that orange menace and his demented worshipers, “Better Angels.” Check out these lines: “And his deception brought the country to its knees/People turned against each other, brother fighting brother/He lied and said he’d make them great again.” Again, how can people still follow this soulless gameshow host? This is one of my favorite tracks. There is an optimistic bent in the song’s chorus: “There’s better angels coming/Better angels coming/Arriving just in time/To tell the truth over the lies/The better angels of our nature rising up tonight.” I am waiting for this to happen on a larger scale. For now, I’m going to enjoy this excellent song and sing along with its chorus. “Can’t Stop The Talking” is another of the disc’s highlights. It has a gentle, thoughtful tone. There is also something of a weariness to the delivery, which works so well for lines like “Well, I’m tired of losing sleep over things that I can’t change” and “Can’t stop the talking, I just can’t stop the talking/I’ve heard it all before behind my back walking out the door.” The album then concludes with another song perfect for our times, “Crazy Isn’t It?” It opens with these lines: “Well, I used to have a lot of fun/But lately I’ve been down, and I’m not the only one.” Ah, how many times has each of us remarked how crazy things are? “It’s past the time to end all this hateful conversation/About the world, it’s good and bad in any combination/And it helps to have friends, oh, it helps to have friends.” This is yet another of my personal favorites.

CD Track

  1. Two Sides
  2. One More Chance
  3. What I Bargained For
  4. Drunkard’s Lament
  5. Show A Little Honesty
  6. Hold Me
  7. In A Small Town
  8. If I Should Fall Behind
  9. In Troubled Times
  10. Better Angels
  11. Can’t Stop The Talking
  12. Crazy Isn’t It?

Not What I Bargained For was released on September 1, 2021.

No comments:

Post a Comment