Back cover/tray card of What Living’s All About with list of the songs
Taxi, a service I recently joined that sells music to record, film and TV producers, offers their songwriter members paid critiques of the songs from anonymous big time music business professionals. Taxi says they hide the names of their music biz consultants because there have been death threats! Somehow I don’t think of songwriters as a particularly violent group, but, hey, all groups, including spiritual teachers, include a small percentage of assholes.
I sent in the ten original songs from What Living’s All About, and got some comments from four of these unnamed (but numbered) industry powerhouses, which I will share with you here. A fifth listener (#211) identifies the overall style of the CD as Jazz Cabaret, a type of music that is recently having a resurgence in New York City.
Floozy Tune: Very cool song – really good performance – I like the imagery and the approach. Vocal has a lot of feel and there seems to be a sense of knowing in the delivery – not just reading a lyric off the page. At times it has sort of a Billie Holiday-esque tease-y thing that is very fun. Music arrangement feels quite authentic and very well done – very strong playing, but mostly a real good sense of what would work for a track like this – professional. Overall, it has the feel of a jazz standard with sort of a more contemporary look at the situation than would probably be found in an older song – pretty cool. (#53)
America the Blues: Hard to place a definitive pitchable stylistic label on this one. Well played and arranged. Placement would necessitate a sympathetic political setting. Perhaps a film? (#53)
Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues: The title is really cool – pretty much tells the whole story right there. Nice blend of classic jazz pop and a more or less contemporary point of view. Strong vocal delivery. Good structural elements – the form is cool and natural for the vibe of the song – the musical arrangement is good – dobro guitar and more acoustic instrumentation gives it the vibe of an era. The imagery is sharp and well-defined – the continuity is really good – imagery that only someone who knows the subject could describe (“bee pollen candy” indeed). Film or TV might be a viable place to find a situational place where the blend of influences would be part of the narrative for instance. Very cool imagery and fun to listen to. (#53)
Zero Gravity: Moody jazz noir, with saxophone and vocal lines in counterpoint. Languid and hypnotic; a slow burn, as it is. The wide interval in the first line raises interest immediately. The octave lift at the end of the chorus also maintains tension and drama that the sax solo sustains. Verse two is very picturesque and vivid. The image of the corsage being tossed into the “museum fountain” and the unusual word play of “limousine muse” are probably the strongest imagery in the lyrics: very well done and unusual. (#238)
Doctor Sun and Nurse Water: You have a very interesting sense of lyricism as demonstrated through this song, Alicia. I can’t recall having ever heard this combination of words before, and that’s a plus for the song. Personalizing the central images of nature and relating them to healing results in an upbeat and positive message that the power of the gospel arrangement brings to the forefront. The authenticity of the overall presentation is impressive: the use of the gospel choir, in particular, really adds an intensity that raises the bar considerably. “You give me rhythm and take away my blues” is a nice piece of word play as well that reformulates the conventions of the music it reflects and spins it into another positive cycle of hope and renewal. (#238)
What Living’s All About: A nice homage to the Peggy Lee-era song stylists of the fifties – you could perform this one stretched out in a single spotlight across the top of a white grand piano in a slinky gown. The jazz diva persona is inseparable from the song and supports the overall gestalt and vision that certainly illuminates a singular sense of artistry. From the downbeat, the listener is propelled directly into the center of the vibe; setting the mood is something you do extremely well in this song (as well as the other two songs reviewed with this submission.) The motion of the second verse is palpable: the electricity is well demonstrated and described in the litany of lyrical lines. The final verse is equally compelling with the images of “hips will roll the rhythms of mountains” a particular earthy delight. (#238)
Sometimes It Takes a Long Time: The track has a nice late 60’s/early 70’s folk/blues/singer songwriter vibe. The playing is impressive in that regard; great piano and cool vintage feel in the rhythm section. The gospel vocalist sounds excellent; that’s a good arrangement touch, btw. I like the way her part builds up at the end. The lyric paints in broad anthemic strokes, as if it’s summing up something that’s been going on, as if it’s the finale of a multi-part piece of some type. (#53)
Best of the Rest of You: This track sounds excellent. The slide guitar playing is tremendous, and the rhythm section sounds right on time for the style. The vocal sounds good and the lyric is fun. As a potential cover, perhaps this could be pitchable to artists in the vein of Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux. Since the track itself sounds so good, I advise considering potential soundtrack pitches that specify material in this vein. (#53)
It’s Not Fair: Good song crafting, fluid feel, and some creative choices. Sounds like you have a good time with this one… “her topography, choreography”…echoes of Cole Porter in your sensibility, laid back and sophisticated approach. Melody, chord progressions, and walking bass line establish the groove and support kind of a jazz/hipster vocal delivery. The verse melody works with the lyric. This tune is in the genre of trad jazz to smooth jazz radio, cabaret, lounge. Appeal of the ensemble arrangement and phrasing draws from artists like Peggy Lee to Diana Krall. (#27)
Love, Understanding and Peace: These are very moving melodies; feel very natural and flowing. It’s adult contemporary from another era, bordering almost on gospel, at times, with a hint of a jazz feel. However, overall, this song reminds me of a lot of contemporary songs I’ve heard in church. This is a story of…redemption perhaps? I can’t quite tell if you’re singing to/about Jesus or about a relationship with a man – or both. The first sense I have of this song is it’s classic and retro, expecially considering your vocal approach, the spoken word portion and the musical arrangement. (#111)
ABL notes: #111 appears to be a specialist in Christian pop. #238 writes like a poet. #53 is from from a generation that uses “cool” as its superlative. I am honored!