I first came across Terry Callier’s music in about 1999, I was listening to a Northern Soul compilation Just Keep On Dancing-Chess Northern Soul, a Kent/Ace Records release, and on this album was this fabulous track Look At Me Now. Straight away, I had to find out more about Terry Callier. Luckily, when I visited my local independent record shop and asked whether they had anything by Terry Callier, I was shown a recent compilation Essential, The Very Best of Terry Callier. I had to have it, I had to hear more by Terry Callier, find out more about his music. When I took it home and played it, I was immediately hooked. All I could think of was, why have I not heard of this guy, after all, here is a great singer and songwriter, who combines soul and jazz music so beautifully. From then on, everywhere I went, I looked out for Terry Callier albums. Over time, I was able to buy all of his back catalogue.
Then in September of 1999 Callier brought out a new album. Thankfully, I was able to get a copy on the day it was released and that album was Lifetime. Lifetime is my favorite of Terry Callier’s later albums, shortly followed by 1998’s Timepeace. Obviously, Callier has produced many albums stretching back to 1964’s The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier and in my opinion Lifeline is comparable to just about any of Callier’s earlier work. However, for now, I will review Lifetime.
There are twelve tracks on Lifetime and the first track on the album When My Lady Danced is a beautiful love song, which is even more effective in that the track is mostly acoustic. Listening to the lyrics, one can’t fail to be moved by them, by their beauty and depth.
The second song Sunset Boulevard is another slow song, and for me is one of the best songs on the album. I once saw Terry Callier in concert, and when he played Sunset Boulevard, it was one of the highlights of the set. I can say in all honestly that concert was the most moving experience of my long concert-going career. That night I was struck immediately by Callier’s humility. It is a pity that many less talented musicians than Terry Callier, don’t take a leaf out of his book.
The next song on this album Holding On, is just about worth the price of the album. This track is a faster song that the two preceding tracks and for me one of he highlights of the track is Gary Plummley’s tenor saxophone playing which works round Callier’s vocal and adds to the effectiveness of the song.
When the Music is Gone is the next track on the album, and when I first listened to the lyrics I was immediately struck by their beauty and sentiment. Again, the track is complimented by Rich Fudoli’s tenor and soprano saxophone playing and John McLean’s electric guitar playing. Callier for this album put together what can only be described as a crack team of musicians and as usual, this album features Glasgow virtuoso guitarist, Jim Mullen, who has been at Callier’s side throughout his comeback.
The next song on the album is When A Lark Is Singing. Interestingly, the song is co-written by Callier’s daughter Sundiata and once again is another song with the most beautiful lyrics. On this album Callier’s songwriting is second to none. He wrote five of the songs himself, and co-wrote the remaining seven. Interestingly, the weakest song on the album 4 Miles sees Callier collaborate with six others, and the song a tribute to the late Miles Davis is the poorest on the album. Miles Davis was a hero on his music and an influence on his work. It is just a pity that this tribute to Davis is not a better song.
The seventh track on the album Love Can Do, fittingly sees Callier duet with Beth Orton, as Callier had previously appeared on Orton’s album Central Reservation. This is another acoustic song and Callier and Orton’s voices compliment each other and bring out the beauty and tenderness of the lyrics.
Fix the Blame is the next song and the tempo increases, and finds Callier passionately singing some very poweful lyrics. This shows the versatility of Terry Callier, in that one minute he can be singing tender love songs and the next he is belting out a song packed with social comment.
The next two tracks are my personal favorites on this album. First comes I Don’t Want To See Myself a song that starts slowly and with just Callier and backing vocalists The Visual Ministry Choir , accompanied by the musicians playing softly in the background. Then the tempo changes and Callier launches into joyous lyrics filled with hope, gratitude and love. Complimenting Callier’s strong vocal performance is Gary Plummley’s sublime tenor saxophone solo, which lifts a good song to a great song. All in all, this is a masterful performance that to me, is the highlight of the album. The tempo keeps up on the next track Nobody But Yourself Paul Wertico’s drums keep a steady beat that Callier sings around. The lyrics are thoughtful and the band really are at the top of their game, this track being a demonstration of the way Callier’s band perform live in concert. Should you ever get the opportunity to see Terry Callier live, do so, it is almost a life changing experience.
Coming Up From Babylon is the next track and here the tempo starts relatively slowly, with Callier singing lyrics that have a spiritual narrative. This could be a disaster, but Terry Callier’s performance ensures that this a strong song and he delivers the song powerfully and passionately.
The final song on the album is the title track Lifetime. This is another track where Callier’s spirituality is apparent. When one listens to the lyrics they are so beautiful that they tug on the heart-strings, it is song that manages to combine both spirituality and romance. In my opinion this is one of the finest songs that Terry Callier has ever written, comparable even with the songs he recorded on the Cadet label between 1972-1974. I would even go as far as to say that Lifetime must be one of the most beautiful songs written in the past twenty years.
So if you have never heard Terry Callier’s music, I urge you to go out and buy two albums to start of with. Firstly, you should buy this album, as you will be privileged to hear Terry Callier’s finest album since his much heralded come back. This truly is a stunning album, crammed full of beautiful songs that are beautifully written, arranged and performed. You will not only get to hear Terry Callier, but you will also hear a wonderful band, at the top of their game. The second album you should buy is Essential, The Very Best of Terry Callier which has seventeen of his best songs that he recorded for the Cadet label. If you buy those two albums i am sure you will go on to explore all of Terry Callier’s back catalogue and that you will cherish his music as much as I do.
Love the music of Terry Callier,,is soo special for me his music.
Regards from Ibiza,,spain.
Thanks for your comments. I too am a huge fan of Terry Callier, have been for years. I was fortunate enough to see him live many years ago. That was one of the finest concerts I’ve ever been at. It’s a concert that I’ll never forget.
Ibiza must be beautiful at this time of year. It’s a very special island.