Something Else! Reviews New Album
MAY 14, 2018 BY S. VICTOR AARON
Much is being made of ABBA’s long-awaited comeback but another pop star of the 70s is returning with material that lives up to her underappreciated legacy. Safe In The Arms Of Time (Blue Élan Records) is the first album of fresh material by Rita Coolidge in twenty years, adding another chapter to her story two years after her 2016 Delta Lady memoirs chronicling encounters and collaborations with nearly every rock star that mattered during that decade. But Safe isn’t merely the right occasion to reconnect with this singer and songwriter for those old enough to remember her 1977-78 run of hits, because even if you were only lukewarm about her chart making renditions of “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”, “We’re All Alone and “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” you may very well love this record anyway. Strange to say this about an artist whose first album came in 1971, but she’s outdone herself.
That Safe In The Arms Of Time is so strong didn’t come by accident; Coolidge’s knack for surrounding herself with greatness hadn’t waned at all, starting with her choice of three-time Grammy winner Ross Hogarth to produce the record. Then she assembled a cross generational band full of names who aren’t household names but anyone in the music biz or is an avid reader of album credits should be impressed: John Mellencamp’s David Grissom on guitars, former Captain Beefheart Magic Band member JT Thomas on keys, Brian MacLeod (Sheryl Crow, Tears for Fears) on drums and legendary session bassist Bob Glaub (Jackson Browne, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond) form the base band for this album.
Coolidge, the uncredited mastermind behind the beautiful “Layla” coda, lends her co-writing pen to only three songs but just as she made Boz Scaggs’ “We’re All Alone” her own, every one of these dozen tunes fit her adult contemporary (now called ‘roots rock’) aesthetic. “Satisfied” was contributed by Grissom, and opens the album with Coolidge’s welcoming, warm spirit not like before, but even more so than before. An inspiring pocket gospel choir really lift her for her Keb’ Mo’ duet “Walking On Water,” (video above), a gently uplifting number she wrote with the master folk-bluesman. Keb’ Mo’ returns to lend guitar and backing vocal for their other collaboration, the soulful and funky “Naked All Night.”
At a sprightly seventy-three years old, Coolidge forcefully pushes back against Father Time and that not just shows up in her still-youthful appearance: several songs, such as “Doing Fine Without You” (written by old flame Graham Nash and legend session drummer Russ Kunkel), “Spirit World” and “Rainbow” outright rock like something akin to classic Tom Petty.
The connection to Petty might not be entirely coincidental; ex-Petty drummer Stan Lynch lent his compositions “You Can Fall In Love” and a simple, heartfelt hymn “Please Grow Old With Me” that close out this collection.
Other mid-tempo and ballad tracks such as “Van Gogh,” “Things We Carry” and “We Are Blood” carry a maturity going well beyond your basic love songs, a deep spirituality that doesn’t ever feel a need to be overt about it to be felt.
Safe In The Arms Of Time “is the best record I’ve ever done,” Coolidge enthuses. “I’m extremely proud of it.” Every musician says that about their latest release, don’t they? I think that this time, though, the musician is right.