Monday, May 13, 2024

Blue Largo: “Got To Believe” (2022) CD Review

One of my favorite albums of 2018 was Blue Largo’s Before The Devil Steals Your Soul, an album of excellent vocals and wonderful grooves, an album that addressed problems but reminded us that there were still reasons for joy. That’s an important point to keep in mind in these strange and twisted times we find ourselves in. We can’t let the times overwhelm and consume us. The things that were always important are still important – friends, family, music and love – and those are the things that are not marred by whatever craziness has gripped a portion of the nation. In 2022, Blue Largo released another fantastic album to keep us going, to keep us dancing. Titled Got To Believe, it contains mostly original material, written by Eric Lieberman. The band is made up of Alicia Aragon on vocals, Eric Lieberman on guitar and backing vocals, Taryn “T Bird” Donath on piano and organ, Mike “Sandalwood” Jones on bass, Marcus P. Bashore on drums, Eddie Croft on tenor saxophone and baritone saxophone, and David Castel De Oro on tenor saxophone. Joining them on this release are Jody Bagley on organ and Liz Ajuzie on backing vocals, along with a few guests on certain tracks.

The album’s first track is titled “A World Without Soul,” yet the song itself has plenty of soul, as well as plenty of cheer. It’s partly in that great groove, partly in the saxophones. The song is about how people these days seem more excited about technology and marketing than about art and thought. Several years ago someone told me that her favorite musical artist was Madonna. When I asked why, she told me that Madonna really knew how to market herself. It struck me what a strange and sad reason to revere an artist. But it seems that woman is not alone in her reasoning. I’ve since heard several people talk about artists in terms of marketing and online views rather than in terms of lyrical content or soul. It’s bizarre. This song also touches on how lots of folks don’t go out to see a great local band, but instead watch bands online. That was fine during the height of the pandemic, but it just didn’t give us what we need, that connection we get from live music. “Too many hearts have turned cold/Too many doors have slammed closed/And I don’t want to live in a world, a world without soul.” This track features some delicious work on keys, particularly during that jam in the middle. And I love that rhythm.

“Got To Believe,” the album’s title track, starts with a good force, urging us to believe in ourselves, in being able to achieve our goals. Once it has grabbed us in those opening moments, it settles into a really nice groove, with some classic elements. This track features a wonderful vocal performance. “Been running too long to turn back now/If I just stay strong, I will make it somehow.” I remember reading once that you’re not old until regrets replace dreams (apparently John Barrymore said that). It’s easy to get frustrated when things don’t seem to be moving forward, but giving up won’t help. “So I keep on hanging on/Though it seems by just a thread/Still, I got to carry on.” I dig that lead on saxophone in the second half. The song then concludes as it began, urging us to keep believing, to not give up. That’s followed by “Soul Meeting,” a song of longing, but mainly of love. Interestingly, it is told from the perspective of someone who has died. “Never abandoned me even when I know you probably should have/So I never knew the meaning of lonely until the day I died/Now I just sit around waiting ‘til you’re back here by my side.” This track features a wonderful lead on guitar. There is a good amount of soul in that guitar playing. And check out these lines from near the end of the song, lines about heaven: “There’s only love, there ain’t no hate/Still I can’t seem to think about nothing/Except when I’ll see you again/I ain’t doing so good without you.” That section features some excellent work on organ.

“What We Gotta Do” quickly becomes a blues celebration, a celebration of music and musicians. “Some of us play for thousands/Others just for a few/Some don’t play for nobody/But they’re the best part of what we do.” I’ve never quite understood how certain artists achieve crazy levels of stardom while some of the best musicians and songwriters I’ve heard remain at the smaller clubs. Well, I prefer going to the smaller venues, so I suppose it works for me. Anyway, this song is about how pursuing music is more a calling than a choice. Check out that wonderful lead on piano. I could groove on this all night, in part because there is so much joy in the playing. “The love and the inspiration keep pulling us through.” Then “Disciple Of Soul” has a very cool vibe. It was inspired by Steven Van Zandt, who is known mainly for his work with Bruce Springsteen, but who also has his own band, Little Stevie And The Disciples Of Soul. “And I can hear it in every word you say/I can feel it in every note you play/So as the story continues to unfold/This one’s you, a disciple of soul.” This is a song that will likely get you on your feet and moving around. Scot Smart joins the band on guitar for this one.

The album’s only cover is “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” a song written by Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus and Horace Ott. The first version I heard when I was a child was that by The Animals. And because my Animals cassette had no liner notes whatsoever, I just assumed that it was their song. It wasn’t until many years later that I heard Nina Simone’s rendition. Blue Largo was inspired by that original recording. but they add their own spin to it too. It’s an excellent rendition, featuring a soulful and moving vocal performance. There is also an excellent instrumental section. That’s followed by “Soldier In The Army Of Love.” “I’m going to fight against oppression, fight against tyranny/I’ll keep fighting for love and compassion/It’s what my heart’s been longing to see,” Alicia sings at the beginning of this one. Oh, yes. Love and compassion abound in music, in the arts, and are largely absent from politics. Who expected that our own country would become in danger of falling to tyranny, and with a significant portion of its citizens cheering on that development? Scary times. There is no love or compassion in the genetic makeup of Donald Trump. None. It is interesting that Alicia sings “One man’s villain is another’s hope and salvation.” Trump is certainly a villain in my world, and it’s difficult to understand how anyone could find him a figure of hope and salvation, but many do. The rest of us must “keep on fighting the good fight.”

“Ronnie” is about a San Diego-based musician who died in 2018. Taryn Donath had played piano in his band when she was a teenager. “But I think about the faith you always had in me/So I go out every night and play/But the notes sound so lonely/We had a party last week just to celebrate your life.” There is a bit of a party vibe to this song itself. That’s the way to remember someone, to celebrate someone. I dig that beat, and this track also features a good lead on piano. That’s followed by “Gospel Music,” which begins with an instrumental nod to “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and then suddenly takes off. “I ain’t one for religion/I give my love to humanity/But when I hear that gospel rhythm/I feel the spirit wash right over me.” Yes, that’s exactly it for me too. I don’t belong to any religion, but love gospel music. Go figure. This track is a lot of fun, and it features some delicious work on saxophone. While it began with “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” it ends with a nod to “Shout.”

Songs about aging have been speaking strongly to me lately, and it’s kind of hard to acknowledge that there is more time in my past than in my future, particularly when I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I believed I would. In “Rear View Mirror,” Alicia sings, “But there’s so much in my rear view mirror/There’s so much behind us now/There’s so much in my rear view mirror/I’d start all over again if there was a way somehow.” The most difficult part is thinking about how someday my girlfriend and I will be no more, and we’ll never see each other again, never hold each other again (unless, of course, I’m wrong and there is some afterlife). “I want to stay with you forever and ever.” The band then takes us into the country realm with the album’s final song, “Santa Fe Bound.” David Berzansky joins the group on pedal steel for this one, delivering some wonderful stuff. “You say the nights are long and the days are so cold/You’re feeling tired, weary and old/But don’t worry, my brother, this soon shall pass/There’s a train a coming, it’s gonna be the last.”

CD Track List

  1. A World Without Soul
  2. Got To Believe
  3. Soul Meeting
  4. What We Gotta Do
  5. Disciple Of Soul
  6. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
  7. Soldier In The Army Of Love
  8. Ronnie
  9. Gospel Music
  10. Rear View Mirror
  11. Santa Fe Bound

Got To Believe was released on September 9, 2022.

No comments:

Post a Comment