Rita Coolidge

Safe In The Arms Of Time

(Blue Élan Records)

 

I had a first listen to this new Rita Coolidge release without looking at any background notes or recording / players information, just to let the songs sink in and as a result was left with some firm impressions. Firstly, melody is king here, every cut having a tunefulness about it whatever the tempo or arrangement. Next, each song has a crafted vibe or atmosphere of its own, aided by the skills of the players and in particular the dynamic between the keyboards, the guitars and the slide guitars. Thirdly the singer and deliverer of the lyrics seemed overall to be in a good place, spiritually. The edgier or spikier words are not marinated in venom. Conviction, maybe. The joyous words seem genuinely warm, airy..shared. If this artist’s music is not shared, what is it? Yes, connection is everything…

Starting cut Satisfied sets sail with steady acoustic guitar over cooing Hammond and then out narrator Rita is singing the tale in a perfect key, sounding personal. After a few hearings the number does sound Dylanish in its chordal progression and cadences. The chorus is strong, the stammering tremelo-setting guitar is divine and the violin stately. It all sounds assured without being stale.

Doing Fine Without You is a chugging rocky statement of a tune, the slide guitar embellishment really cool and the core guitar has a Storyville-style purposefulness about it. Turns out to be Dave Grissom! This is Coolidge in an area close to Bonnie Raitt yet sounding herself on vocal tone and delivery. The lady is temporarily down but not out, in this lyric! The band have that cruising, nothing-to-prove ensemble presence that so suits Coolidge’s styles. On to Walking On Water with its warm electric piano and lovely guitar threading in here and there. Rita delivers this in a soft conversational mode and the backing vocals have a hint of church. Keb Mo takes a verse, giving another dimension to the performance – and from speaking with Ms Coolidge, she has the highest regard for is talent. You would swear the slide was a cat like Dave Lindley or Ry but it’s one of the Brothers Landreth. Spirit World rocks out with a spiky groove and a neat guitar lines pairing, this one undermining our chanteuse despair at the coldness on the world surrounding her today. Yet the composition exudes optimism for something better evolving.

The Things We Carry is a light-touch piano-led song, finding Rita reflective as she considers the past and what the future might hold. Naked All Night turns out to be inspired by Coolidge’s family background. The message is the unity that is there for the taking. The rhythm is playful, a puffing harmonica in the mix. It’s not just Don McLean who has found inspiration in the painter Van Gogh and the song of that title here. The lyrical acoustic piano sets the scene and the words crystallise what happened on the canvases in a sensual manner. Maybe the best vocal on the collection. Rainbow is brisk, Rita sounding eager to put the lyric over over a soft-rock pacing. The song is melodic, memorable and sounds like a set-opener to this scribe. Over You is a saturnine, grinding song. You would really think that she had told the crew to sound like Crazy Horse, the pent-up sound is like a heavy cloud about to drench us. The guitars growl and snarl in the backdrop, evoking Everything Knows This Nowhere. The delay on the guitar solo only emphasises this, as expert keyboard tones patter away. Coolidge’s take on voodoo and my pick of this programme.

We Are Blood lightens the mood, sounding at the start like Arthur Lee in full-flight and Coolidge imbues the edgy tempo with a firm authority as a fine chorus hits the listener. Uplifting and airy..this album is visiting a lot of emotional places. A lovely acoustic guitar roars in. You Can Fall In Love is a co-write with Stan Lynch and Joe Hutto. It’s a bit Elton John in construction and arrangement but it is sung with heart and feel and fits well into the sequence. Matters come to a close with Please Grow Old With Me being a twilight tune if ever there was, with a touch of Randy Newman. And when was that ever a bad thing?

Never far from pure melody, Coolidge sounds full of life on this record and there are more gritty moments than you might assume. Well worth a listen.

Pete Sargeant



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(Many thanks to Sacha and to Ms Coolidge)

Rita Coolidge's new album 'Safe In The Arms Of Time' is released on Friday 4th May 2018 on Blue Élan Records.

To pre-order the album and for more information visit her official website: http://bit.ly/2HhrX4N

In addition, Rita Coolidge will perform a four-night residency from 14th May 2018 - 17th May 2018 at The Boisdale Club, London, United Kingdom. Tickets can be purchased here: http://bit.ly/2HiJaLr

Rita Coolidge