Brian Lindsay – Revival – Album Review
Interesting! As much as I tend to struggle with what I’d consider to be fairly straight-ahead Rock N’ Roll after all these years spent listening to music, I gotta admit, I’ve still got a lot of love for the genre when it’s done right. After pushing play on Brian Lindsay’s new album, listening to how his title track started to roll out through my speakers…it kinda felt like…hmmm…I suppose like how someone like Roy Orbison would sing a Bruce Springsteen song – and I thought to myself, “who wouldn’t want to have attributes like THAT?” Most people out there would aspire to have sounds similar to either of those giants…and to kind of have both of them show up in a single song right off the drop really ain’t any kind of rough start, you feeling me? No doubt that you can hear the special connection to melody in that first shift into the pre-chorus, with the payload coming even more-so after as Brian & his band slide right into the main hooks – “Revival” has the mix of passion and professionalism you want to hear straight out of the gate, and has no problem pulling us all in to listen. Definitely the kind of song that grabs my attention for a whole plethora of reasons – you can hear the gift for songwriting that Brian has, and you can hear that while he’s borrowed plenty from those that have influenced him along the way, he’s still adding his own stamp to it as well. Call me crazy, but that MATTERS…and especially when it comes to Rock music delivered in the purest definitions of the genre – it’s an extremely tough area to stand out in given that so many have rocked throughout the years of our history…and I gotta admit, right off the bat, it sounds like Brian’s got that extra magic required to sincerely pull it off. “Revival” is a great start – and I’ve got even better news for ya on that front – I think there are plenty of cuts that are just as good, or even better when it comes to the full lineup of his new album. From stellar & stoic musicianship, to clever lyricism & heartfelt tunes, to the energy you wanna find in a Rock record, he’s basically got it all in here.
There’s no doubt that Brian knows his roots. From artists like The Boss to John Mellancamp, from Meat Loaf to Roy Orbison…Dire Straits and probably even a little Jerry Lee Lewis in there somewhere – I’d be way more surprised if you told me that these artists & bands weren’t in his collection as opposed to finding their entire catalogs – know what I mean? I listen to a track like “Love Lives Here” and can’t help but admire that not only does he have the sound that Brian clearly loves to listen to himself, but his level of execution & professionalism is pretty much straight off the charts. As you can tell from the comparisons I’ve made already – I’m not gonna accuse this man of recreating the wheel here when it comes to the art & craft of making music – but with that being said, don’t get it twisted & don’t get me wrong…when you do what you do as well as this guy’s doin’ it, that’s still something extremely special. Dig the BIG drums from Greg Andrews on “Love Lives Here” and I felt like the piano/organ contributions from Alan Murphy were freakin’ essential to this tune as well. I’ll readily admit, it’s going to be extremely tough for anyone in this lineup to outshine its main star – Brian Lindsay’s really got that extra magic you wanna find in a frontman, and he’s a stunningly expressive performer that knows exactly how to get the best out of himself. It’s rare that I come out of a song thinking to myself that the pre-chorus is the best part of a tune that I’m listening to, yet here we are, and that’s definitely how I feel about this cut! There’s lots to like or love about the combination of melody and instrumentation on “Love Lives Here” – again, it might not result in the most ‘new’ sound you’ll hear this year, but in terms of execution, this is what 100% is like to experience in listening to music…and there’s something to be said for that.
“River Of Faith And Healing” is further proof & confirmation that here on his 4th record as a professional artist, Brian Lindsay has not only got the sound & style he’s looking for down pat, but that he also knows exactly who to go about enlisting to make the magic happen and get the best out of his material. He’s even got a Gladstone on this particular track – and how random is that? As far as I know, even though we share the same last name, we’re not related – but I’m not ruling it out either given that I come from an extremely musical family spread far & wide throughout the globe. Beyond what Mike adds to this song through his guitar, you’ll also find amazing players like Andy Calabrese on the piano, Ed Jarusinsky on the drums, and the absolutely spectacular voice of Cinnamon Jones backing up the stellar vocals of Brian up front…these are all names that come out to support the man beyond the incredible players he’s got rockin’ with him on the regular in Lindsay’s band. I can even hear a slight Elvis influence in a track like this…which I’ll readily acknowledge – but I also feel like, three tracks in & knowing the full lineup of songs to come, there’s no stronger influence on Lindsay’s music overall than Mr. Springsteen himself. Lots of pieces here & there that’ll remind you of this or that, but I betcha that no matter what you might come up with yourself in comparison, you’ll still be able to hear that potential for The Boss playing the same material – and that’s great company to be keeping when it comes to the craft of songwriting y’all! A real standout for the way the vocals up front from Brian entwine with the background, and I love the way he’s surging to the end in the finale of this song with the added emphasis he threads into the end – it gives the words he’s singing that extra sense of urgency & importance to the messages he’s sending.
I think the biggest surprise for me on this entire record was on “Gaslight Lounge” – in theory, if I was judging just by the sound alone, this isn’t a song that I SHOULD like – Brian and I both know there’s not a whole lot that’s new here, and that the entire vibe of this song is borrowed from tunes that have already proven to be tried, tested, and true throughout music’s entire history from the beginning of Blues/Rock on-forward. Having said that though…I’m gonna advocate on behalf of this song…and I suspect he knows why I would as well…because this dear readers, dear friends…THIS…is just straight-up genius songwriting & essentially perfect lyricism. He’s basically roasting those out there selling misinformation – to a SCORCHING degree too – so if you’re the type out there that thinks you’re capable of pulling one over on the people out there, guess again because Brian’s got your number & he’s calling you out here. From the self-help sellers, to the promise of shining up old ideas to make them great again – “Gaslight Lounge” is a proud anthem of enlightenment, awareness, and a real understanding of what’s happening out there in the world right now. You could consider this entire world to be the “Gaslight Lounge” at the moment and you’d get no argument from me – I’m just stoked there are still folks out there like Brian that are willing to call a spade a spade and lay the truth of what’s going on out there as plain as day for ya. I mean…you kind of have to be one of those people that aren’t able to BE gas-lit to really catch onto what he’s singing about in this song I suppose…but hopefully this track reveals you’re more aware and with it than you realized, or at the very least, with it enough to turn this UP & sing along with the truth!
To me, I’d imagine that “Better Angels” will probably prove to be the song that’s debated back and forth much more than any of the cuts on the first half of this record. Every once in a while, our ambitions can get the best of us…I’m not disputing that there’s a song to be had here – I’d just tell ya that this track still needs a bit more time in the incubation period, or perhaps a slightly better mix than it currently has. The ideas are there – and when you hear that first major bend in the melody as Brian & his crew shift into the main hooks, you can hear just how strongly a track like “Better Angels” could potentially connect – but if I’m being as objective & honest as y’all know me to be, performance-wise & balance-wise, this track’s just a bit wider of the mark than we’ve experienced to this point on the record so far. What I like…is that you can absolutely hear the passion & purpose in the way Brian’s singing this song – I do think he needs to be reined in a bit in that regard as well though – as much as I like what he’s going for here and how he’s going about it, the results come out more unevenly balanced as we listen and he ends up essentially dominating everything & all of what we hear. What I do really like once again would be the lyricism that fuels the heartbeat of this song – think of it this way…there’s a REASON that Brian’s practically at a shouting volume here…because the message he’s communicating is IMPORTANT and highly relevant for the right here & now. While the story seems as old as time itself, and arguably IS – Brian has you appreciating just how much division and distraction still play a significant role in our lives today, in addition to highlighting where it is we get our information from, and who’s supplying it to us. Aside from the lead vocals probably being just a touch too far above the rest in the mix this time around, I felt like the rest of the song was right in line – and that once again, Cinnamon Jones can’t help but stand out for all the right reasons – what an absolutely fantastic voice she has – I wish she was on EVERY record I listened to. No joke – she’s as reliable as they come on the mic, and a perfect complement to a sound like Brian has – I thought she was great on “River Of Faith And Healing” & she’s just as great here.
“Wear And Tear” is probably the cut that surprised me the least…the opposite effect of how I felt about something like “Gaslight Lounge” earlier on. Don’t get me wrong folks…it’s still as well played as any of the tracks you’re going to find on Revival – there’s just a whole lot less here to work with in terms of what’s new is all. Even its title, “Wear And Tear,” seemed to almost mock how I feel about the overall straightforward nature of real Rock N’ Roll and the effect of listening to it over so many years – it’s always going to BE a great style of music – no one’s disputing that – but it has been done so much and so often that it can be extremely tough to do anything enough that it’ll stand out anyone, you dig? That’s the “Wear And Tear” of hearing as much music as I have though…I don’t necessarily expect everyone out there to feel the same way I do or respond in the same way. Heck, back when I was growing up, this would have been the exact type of sound that would have sent my mother running right to the dance-floor, and I’d imagine for many folks out there listening that the effect is still the same today. It’s a mover, a shaker, and for as weary-spirited as the theme may purport to be, the energy and resilience is equally on display if you’re listening to the lyrics. “Wear And Tear” is all about having more in the tank than you’d likely assume…the idea that any damage is just a little cosmetic at best, and that underneath the surface, this machine is still runnin’ HOT & at any age, we’ve still got lots to contribute.
I was actually just talking about the effect of “writing American” and how it sounds to all the rest of us around the world outside of its borders earlier on in the wee hours of this morning in a different review I was writing – and if you ask me, a track like “American Night” is the way to really go about doing it RIGHT. Let’s be clear though – Brian’s definitely borrowing the most he has from the values and insight that The Boss has provided to us for years…but c’mon y’all – this is one seriously exceptional song to the nth degree, and has a real gritty perspective that I can fully appreciate. There are basically two sides to the concept of “writing American” – there are going to be those that proudly wave the flag straight in your face & seem to ignore the many issues that are hidden behind its waving banner – and there are a much fewer set of songs & artists with the courage you’ll find in Brian that tend to dig deeper beyond all that exceptionalism stuff. The “real America” is far different from the one that tends to be glamorized in the media and broadcast to the world through nationalist propaganda and artists all-too-proud of their homeland…there’s a whole mess of problems underneath all its most shiny ideals that have dirtied up its ambitions, intentions, and potential for so very long. Much like a song like “Born In The USA” was able to do, Brian achieves the same here with “American Night” – he’s basically tearing a strip right out of his country…not because he hates it – but in fact, because he genuinely DOES love it & wants it to be better than it currently IS. It’s not that there isn’t plenty to celebrate about being American – I’m sure that there is, even with my own Canadian perspective and not having a nationalistic bone in my body – but I felt like the directness, honesty, and true grit it takes to be THIS REAL spoke volumes on behalf of the character in a man like Brian Lindsay. Dude’s got a good head on his shoulders and an equally good heart to go with it…and if you need proof of that, I’m tellin’ ya it’s right there in the sentiment of a song like “American Night” – as a result, much like he did earlier with “Gaslight Lounge,” his lyricism leads the way to victory and he’s been able to turn what might appear ordinary into truly extraordinary material.
Thematically…I felt like Brian’s proven he’s quite a fearless songwriter when it comes to the content on this record. Songs like I’ve cited already in “Gaslight Lounge” and “American Night” will confirm that for ya if you’re listening – and “Land That Time Forgot” continues to work in the theme of how our evolution really ain’t all it was cracked up to be, and perhaps even currently heading backwards like we’re reverting to the days long past. Heck, he’ll even cite this himself as he sings “feels like we’re turning back the clock” – and it definitely does seem like this from the perspective of someone outside of the USA today, like myself. I don’t think I’ve ever worried so much about our good neighbors down south as I have throughout this past six or seven years…it’s reverting back to a place that seems like its values come from a time before I was even alive yet…and that’s a scary thing y’all. Love the guitar solo in this tune…love the sentiment…love the extra downhome touch it has through the fiddle/mandolin added in by Bruce Diamond as well – everything stacks up even as we’re waiting “for the house of cards to fall.” “Land That Time Forgot” is a gentle-but-bold reminder of how precarious the freedoms and life we enjoy truly are…it’s a cautionary tale built on exactly what’s happening right here & now – and hopefully there’s at least a few people out there paying attention to the warnings contained in its message. It’s up to us to help preserve what we love…and if we don’t, we’ll be living in the past, today.
“Beautiful Scars” would possibly be one of the few cuts on this record I felt might grow stronger with a bit more time & experience under its belt…but it might just be a track that doesn’t quite reach the memorable heights that the majority of this album reaches too. Probably just depends on our own personal taste when it comes right down to it – I’m hearing a bit of hesitation, a bit of metering issues in the lyricism that seem like they’re being worked out in real-time…and obviously many moments where things work out really well for Brian and his crew too. I mean…you can blame me if you would like to – I just call things like I hear’em though…and after the high standards Brian’s set along the way, what else can I say other than I felt like “Beautiful Scars” got close to what he’s achieved so far, but missed that magic we’re looking for just slightly by comparison. Again…if I was a betting man…I’d reckon that along with “Better Angels,” what we hear on “Beautiful Scars” is probably a newer song in the lineup in terms of the timeline & how they were written, or perhaps just a song that was rushed by a fraction more in the studio – and I’d be fairly sure that if you were to hear Brian play this cut today, that he’s playing it with just as much purpose, passion, and intent as you know he can supply. As it stands right now – it’s a good tune, but not my favorite of the bunch…I feel like “Beautiful Scars” was missing a bit of that spark that has made so many of these songs on Revival absolutely awesome to listen to. On the bright side, a track like this one would probably normally be an A-side on most records – on this one, so maybe it’s B – big deal! That’s still a killer grade, and Brian Lindsay & his band are only competing with themselves at this point…I still felt like “Beautiful Scars” was cohesive enough to have included, but right on the fringe.
As for the final track, “Reckoning Day” – the ship rights its course, and Revival ends on a genuine highlight that people will remember. Lindsay has really put out a political point of view when it comes to this album if you’re listening between the lines – and I can tell ya that I certainly felt like I agreed with so much of his point of view throughout the set-list of songs on this album. As I’ve said countless times on these pages of ours, if you’re gonna make it in this music business and get us all listening, you’ve either gotta have something to prove or something to say – and I felt like Brian brought both to the table throughout this lineup of songs. The band surrounding him and Lindsay included, all play like they’ve got purpose and something to prove, and Brian’s lyrics have shown us time & again that he’s got real grounded perspective and something authentic to say in each song. All-in-all, from the warm organ glow to the radiant shimmer of the guitar – Lindsay and his crew have created a Rock N’ Roll album that feels ALIVE…and it’s been a genuine joy to listen to. Tracks like “Reckoning Day” give me hope that the future isn’t as bleak as it seems like it could be most days…that the change we need might still be occurring somewhere below the surface…that all is indeed, not lost. Tracks like “Reckoning Day” serve to remind us that the possibility & potential of our future is every bit as bright as it has ever been – we just have to remember what it takes to reach the best of who we are and what we can accomplish. With artists like Lindsay on the front-lines of the change we need being willing to lead the charge – we stand a chance of getting there. A hopeful finale certainly makes for a great way to wrap things up – based on everything I’ve heard & experienced in this 4th album from Brian Lindsay, I’m already looking forward to his 5th. The man can sing, the man can play, he’s surrounded by an exceptional wealth of talent, and he’s got a level-headed perspective with a dreamer’s attitude to go along with it – that’s all aces to me.
Find out more about Brian Lindsay at his official website at: https://brianlindsay.net
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