P John Livingston – Singles Review
“THANTHAANAI THUTHIPPOAMAE” was the first track I had the opportunity to check out from the John P Livingston Piano Classics channel he’s got goin’ on at YouTube – and you gotta admit, female lead vocals from his wife come out wonderfully clear, bold, & strong for being completely natural & without a microphone. I was immediately impressed with the beautiful melody she created to complement the keyboards from Livingston. It’s moments like these that make me most appreciate just how universal the language of music truly is…I consider it a privilege to be able to witness something like this happen, and I feel a genuine appreciation for just how much music is a part of P John’s life & the people surrounding him as well…it’s like you’re invited right into the household to be a part of an experience like this. While Livingston is a ‘part-time’ musician with a whole separate career outside of music & he’s here to have some fun with his hobby, you can also visibly see from the videos being posted online that he plays with precision & focus…’part-time’ or not, he’s definitely a capable player. “THANTHAANAI THUTHIPPOAMAE” was an excellent first impression and real glimpse into what P John Livingston is all about from the cultural influence on the overall sound to the collaborative spirit guiding him. Whatever that other career he has might be, it’s just as clear that music is essentially just as important to him in his free time…and you can tell the desire to play & sing is there the more you listen/look into his songs.
“UNGA KIRUBAI POTHUMAE (ENNAI AZHAITHAVARAE)” was a great video to watch – you get another look at a different set-up that P John Livingston is using to create his music, with a whole stack of keyboards layered on top of each other in a stack to provide him with…well…I’d assume everything he needs! So cool! Same combination of P John & his fantastic wife, the female vocalist alongside him – and for as involved & complex as both parts of this composition really are from the technique & tone of the vocals to the rapidly melody coming from the keyboards, “UNGA KIRUBAI POTHUMAE (ENNAI AZHAITHAVARAE)” comes out impressively smooth, inviting, and welcoming at all times. There’s a lot of sweetness in this song that I totally feel like people out there listening would connect with, it’s quite a remarkable pleasant & humble vibe that they create between them…two people making music for the sheer joy of it all – I think we can all admire that on one level or another. They’re not looking to score the next radio hit – and it’s largely because of that, we can all connect with the down-to-earth approach they take to the videos & music of a song like “UNGA KIRUBAI POTHUMAE (ENNAI AZHAITHAVARAE)” – there’s zero pretense involved at all; it’s purely them, together, making music…because they truly love to do it. Nothing more, nothing less – but you’ll notice quickly that joy passes on to you as well through the experience…personally, I’ll never get tired of watching people doing what they love to do most. P John Livingston and his surrounding crew of talented friends & family are certainly included in that.
Have you seen yourself a dueling-piano cover of “Despacito” in your lifetime yet? No? Well P John’s got one for ya. It’s…fun. I ain’t gonna lie to you or to them of course, there’s definitely moments where the fun takes hold & they go off the rails more than once in this short & enthusiastic instrumental cover tune. That being said…for anyone out there with the spirit & savvy to get into a studio & jam to see what happens when a couple people both know a tune and want to see what happens when combining their talent, you know you can still find multiple moments of brilliance along the way as well. We’re introduced to P John’s son on one keyboard, while he plays the other, each taking on a layer of the melody and adding plenty of their own flair & finesse to their performance. Here’s where I’m at…I look at a song like their “Despascito” cover – and sure, it’s a bit all over the place & colors outside of the lines & all-that…but at the same time, man do I appreciate just how cool this opportunity they share between them really is as father & son. I’m the son of a musician myself…many of the readers here know that already from past reviews – what many might not realize however, is that we’ve technically only ever played together one time in my thirty-nine years. So I’m jealous to say the least – I think it’s extraordinary that these two get to play together & have as much fun as they must have – for any slight flaws or missteps you’ll find on “Despascito,” you’ll always appreciate the fact that this is a father & son duo that choose to spend their time together making music & art – that my friends, is a beautiful thing.
P John’s a lucky man, no doubt about it…he’s living a good life, surrounded by a loving family. And they all make music together – I mean c’mon people, how cool is that? That’s awesome. And Livingston’s wife really does have a beautiful voice. I probably dig it a bit more personally when she sings in her own language than I do when she’s adapting to English like on “Long Time Ago In Bethlehem” – but I’m not complaining either, I think she does a wonderful job & she’s clearly a joyous spirit to have around at all times. Fully welcome any time as far as I’m concerned, on each of these songs that she showed up in, you can see that she brings a more relaxed energy & free-spirit to the music being made; that’s no disrespect to P John & his son of course…I’m just saying, you can always see that when it comes time to make music & press record, those two are as serious as it gets and focused until the moment it stops. Livingston’s wife is the glue that holds it all together & brings that energy & sweetness to the crew – and the humbleness created between them, that earnest desire to entertain, is always on display as a result. And to be fair to P John, his version of “Long Time Ago In Bethlehem” was released in December of 2017 – so while it might be heading into summer currently, understand it was seasonally on-point at the time.
“AADHIYIL VAARTHAYAHA IRUNTHA,” like a lot of the songs you’ll find on the P John Livingston Piano Classics channel at YouTube, are quite short…almost like he’s documenting each and every idea & preserving them for later when the time is right and he wants to hit the studio for real – and folks, that’s a great method when it comes to making music these days. While I wouldn’t quite go as far as to say P John & his wife are creating a full-on Rock song here, there’s noticeably more aggression & a bit more fire fueling this short tune. Plus you gotta dig how Livingston works the pitch-shifter towards the middle & end of “AADHIYIL VAARTHAYAHA IRUNTHA” – I would have taken a whole lot more of that if he had more time to put it in there…we only get a few seconds here & there, but that’s an effective tool in Livingston’s music that adds excitement for sure. All-in-all, “AADHIYIL VAARTHAYAHA IRUNTHA” has a genuinely adventurous sound to it that keeps you engaged & interested. He’ll keep the colorful vibes flowing on “KIRUBAYETHAE” as well, using keyboard-guitar leads as the main sound for the melody. It’s an avant-garde & improv live performance at the end of the day…but it’s all played with a fair amount of reliable precision, P John’s wife is as fantastic as ever…and that comforting atmosphere they create together is ever-present as always – I fully admire just how much these two must love each other. I dig the keyboard-as-guitar thing enough I suppose…I grew up on that as well with that musician-father I mentioned being a keyboard-player specifically, so this is all right in my wheelhouse somewhat. I would say though, that I’m probably more of a traditionalist in that sense…I like my keyboards being keyboards rather than anything else…fun effects or piano…that’s where I’m at personally. So for me, when a song like “KIRUBAYETHAE” switches up the sound at the end towards something more typically associated with traditional keyboard sounds as opposed to the guitars, I’d say I probably enjoyed that more.
P John’s got a thing for cascading melodies and staying plenty busy when he’s playing his keyboards – I felt like the added space in the beginning half of “STATE ANTHEM OF TAMILNADU” really captured some of him at his best…and I’d be looking at that if I was him. At this point of having viewed & heard many clips & songs from Livingston, I can tell ya firsthand, he gets excited as a composition goes on…and by the end of many of these tracks, he ends up putting in as many notes as he can. And for people that dig that style of approach to keyboards & piano, right on – no judgments here – all I’m saying is that the more space that P John seems to add in, the more we get to audibly appreciate what he’s bringing to the instrument. Multiple & constant notes are always going to be impressive – but it’s the melody that lasts and makes the most memorable impact, every time. For the majority of “STATE ANTHEM OF TAMILNADU” you get a quaint & pleasant performance that stays within those lines of control that you’re looking for…best advice I could give P John is that when a melody like this calls for a delicate sound in the music to go with it, you wanna preserve that as best as possible. Whether or not he does by the end of this tune, might be up for debate – what’s not is there are definitely multiple highlights for both P John and his wife to be found on “STATE ANTHEM OF TAMILNADU” for sure, both music & vocals.
FUN FACT – P John Livingston’s videos online go back about seven years now – you can actually watch his son grow-up onscreen right there in front of you while you take-in this catalog of tunes. Livingston’s son does really well on his own and you can see the technique & passion are certainly there – he’s got the perfect long piano fingers you want for keyboards/piano. Listening to moments like “RAATCHASAN” was seriously cool…watching the song build from its low-key & subtle beginnings, to the rampaging intensity it contains at the end. Seeing the younger Livingston continually add more notes & speed as the song plays on – you can tell the apple doesn’t fall too far at all from the tree here. “RAATCHASAN” is a great cut all-around though…the kind of passionate performance that would make his poppa proud. For myself personally, the biggest surprise probably in the entire set was listening to him cover the “Mr. Bean Theme Song” – I was definitely blown away by just how much I enjoyed this, and the kid plays it really well. Well…at this point, the son is nearly a man, he’s not so much of a kid anymore, like he was way back when these videos first began to roll out onto the internet. He’s much more grown-up now – and he definitely plays like it – I think he does an exceptional job on the “Mr. Bean Theme Song.”
You’ll find lots of tunes on the channel that show the father & son together – and at times, P John will even take on the microphone duties himself, like on “SEER YESU NAATHANUKKU.” I’ll say this…and I’m sure P John would be the first to agree with me, he’s probably not the number-one singer in the family – that honor is going to go to his wife, for sure, she’s got the voice. But in truth, a song like “SEER YESU NAATHANUKKU” does reveal that he’s really not all that far off – and in the case of a lot of these tunes, no matter the singer or player, it all comes down to knowing the material as much as possible. In the video, you can see P John with his iPhone checking out the lyrics – which is no problem in terms of getting a song down – but in terms of getting your best performance out of ya, it ain’t gonna happen. Not for him, not for anyone else. Like an actor has to memorize his lines, a singer essentially has to do the same if you’re truly looking to establish that connection & deliver the words with the passion, tone, and energy they deserve. That being said, you can hear that P John can sing for sure, you just also end up realizing & knowing that he could also be better than he’s revealing to us with these particular methods. There’s a strange line that those out there looking to make music as a hobby end up having to walk that regular musicians wouldn’t…it’s always a tough call to know when to push yourself harder, and when to relax and just have some fun with it. Not knowing the words by heart partially, in-full, or relying on reading them while you’re singing them, even in the most mainstream situations with bands or artists out touring the world today, can’t help but come along with a bit of a karaoke feel to them. You’ll find the same with “VUYIRTHEZHUNTHARAE” – though it did feel like P John was more familiar with this song as he sang it…tone-wise, it wasn’t quite as there as “SEER YESU NAATHANUKKU” – but you can hear the energy & passion much more. Bottom-line is, Livingston is a ready & willing participant in all-things-music – I guarantee it, just ask him and I bet he’ll bring a keyboard out of nowhere and start setting up to jam. Even though both him and his son always have that ultra-serious & focused look on their faces when performing, like you’ll see again in the video for “VUYIRTHEZHUNTHARAE,” you can also see in the many of these posts that, at the end when the song is done, or the very beginning – GIANT smiles upon their faces that certainly show you both how much fun they’re about to have at the start & how much fun they’ve had by the time it’s all over. “VUYIRTHEZHUNTHARAE” has an uplifting energy & melody to it…endlessly friendly sound really, and I think many people will dig that.
Livingston’s son also helps contribute a more modern-day mainstream element to these tunes they post up at the channel, keeping things current by adding songs like “Despacito,” which you can find in both the version with the dueling pianos like we’ve already discussed, but also in solo-form with a totally different sound. Of the two versions posted, I’m more partial to this due to the clarity of just having the one instrument to absorb at a time, plus the son does an exceptional job of both playing the keyboards and switching up the sounds in-time on the solo-version. Still a young-man for sure, still room to grow, but I certainly admire the skills he already has – he does a great job in playing “Despacito” – and of course, at least half the world already loves that song, so in terms of selection – great choice. He also does an outstanding job with the majority of “Girls Like You,” originally by Maroon 5 – P John’s son plays this one like his life depends on it! When he gets going and really starts moving, you can definitely forgive the occasional double-hit on a couple piano notes here & there throughout the song, because the passion on display more than makes up for it. Besides, for the most-part, you’ll see he plays with both heart & precision as he performs “Girls Like You” – another solid selection with a bold melody that shows the agile fingers of this young musician are in fine form, energized, and ready to entertain ya. For the channel’s future success at YouTube, letting the young Livingston pick a couple tracks here and there is going to benefit the whole set-list overall by bringing-in what’s current with the listeners out there.
I finished with “THOOKI SUMAPPEERAE VAALLNAAALALLAAM,” heading back to the combination between husband & wife where I first started this review. Of all the recordings, this is probably my favorite for multiple reasons…I think P John’s wife gives her best performance for sure – and when you factor-in how she’s got to beat all the odds of the acoustics in the room and the massive amount of sound that Livingston’s creating from his keyboards on this tune, it’s even more impressive. Hearing her bold singing voice and seeing that passion on display at the same time is a truly heartwarming experience…I genuinely do admire just how much the spirit of music flows through this fantastic family. I get that it’s not mainstream…or at least certainly not to us here in Canada or the US…but any time you can make that comment, understand the flipside is that it’s inherently unique in its own way too. Again, for myself personally, one of the greatest privileges I’ll ever know is to be able to be invited into someone’s home from this far away like P John Livingston has allowed us all into his through these videos. To see people this happy to be with each other, making music for the pure joy, is something I’ll always be able to stand behind proudly…it ain’t always about production & studio gear my friends, it’s about the genuine desire to sing & play, in any circumstance. And like I’ve been pointing out all along throughout this review – music has certainly brought them closer together in incredible ways that have strengthened their own family bond, yet also connected them to us now in a very endearing way through these online posts. I’m thankful they’ve shared these songs with us all and been so welcoming, inviting us all in to experience the true joy of music with them on this YouTube channel of theirs.
Make sure to tune-in to the next episode of the SBS Podcast – I’ll tell you a few more thoughts on P John Livingston’s music and be spinning a song for ya on the show! Until then, make sure to check out more of his songs through the links below!
Official YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9jW05hEle2fQUokdjmcokg
“ANANTHA THUTHI OLI KETKUM”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCeQWgH5qkE
“UNGA KIRUBAI POTHUMAE (ENNAI AZHAITHAVARAE)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pEmwj5KRbQ
“AADHIYIL VAARTHAYAHA IRUNTHA”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lSX44e2Kkw
“SEER YESU NAATHANUKKU”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RwzQWIAxHA