Barenaked Ladies’ “All in Good Time” (2010) – The Weekend Review

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  5 / 5 stars

I’ll start by addressing the controversy surrounding the release of this album.

It’s only fair to clear the air, considering there’s been quite a lot of debate.  Although many will claim that it all began recently, I trace this issue back as early as 2006.

The issue I’m referring to, that I’m certain is on everyone’s minds, is the pressing question:

Is All in Good Time the eighth, ninth, or tenth album in the Barenaked Ladies’ not inconsiderable catalog?

(That’s what you thought I meant, right?)

To answer this question, you must revisit BnL’s past three releases: Are Me (2006), Are Men (2007), and Snacktime! (2008).  If you’re inclined to count them all as individual studio releases, then this year’s album is their tenth.  If you don’t count children’s albums, then it’s the ninth.  If you file the remaining two as an Are Me/Are Men double album proper, then we’re down to All in Good Time being the eighth.

You may be wondering, is it worth wasting energy considering such minutiae?

I think not.

However, as we stand at the precipice of a new decade of BnL being one of the most underrated and under-appreciated bands in contemporary rock music, it is worthwhile to take note of just how much they have achieved in recent history.

Believe me: the review may well afford you an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the band’s latest effort.

All in Good Time is an album of balance, an album of desperate searching and of confronting denials of satisfaction.  Contrary to stances I’ve read in the few professional reviews that have been written, All in Good Time is not a more serious departure from those fun-lovin, goofy Canadians we “used to know.”  Rather, any serious listener (i.e. no one under the employ of Rolling Stone‘s reviews department) would recognize that BnL’s catalog is deeper than “Be My Yoko Ono,” “If I Had $1,000,000,” “One Week,” and “Another Postcard.”  Particularly in the past ten years, this band has produced some of the most lyrically compelling and instrumentally impressive rock music available.

In many ways, All in Good Time borders on the concept-driven.  From the piano-laden lead-off single “You Run Away” to the deceptively upbeat track two “Summertime,” Ed Robertson and company quickly establish this as a post-traumatic album, a collection of songs that express various approaches toward disagreement and separation.

Please don’t misread my interpretation: I, for one, have found this album to have more depth than your average “breakup album.”  A comparison to the classics — Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, perhaps — just wouldn’t be right.  There is a certain strength of purpose here that other breakup albums simply cannot manage.  That may be why we’re drawn to them: as expressions of how it feels to cope with pain, loss, and even utter devastation of a lifestyle.

Instead, what I hear in Robertson, Kevin Hearn, Jim Creeggan, and even Tyler Stewart’s vocals is a certain solidarity we’ve come to expect from BnL.  When dealing with the most serious of trauma, their levity is woven in, even if it is more subtle than a song about laughing at funerals or running through a lawn sprinkler with your gym shorts on.  Consider Robertson’s line about crashing a party in “The Love We’re In,” to which he adds, “I’ll crash the plane” (referring, of course, to his own plane crash last year).

Additionally, not since their debut with 1992’s Gordon has such a sense of community been apparent in a BnL album.  More recently, particularly with those aforementioned past three releases, BnL has increased the number and degree of contributions from the so-called supporting members, namely Hearn, Creeggan, and Stewart.

In the wake of Steven Page’s departure (fine! I went and said it!), this is precisely what was needed to push the band to the next level in a career that has been marked by consistent evolution.

BnL's "All in Good Time" (2010)

BnL's "All in Good Time" (2010)

Starting the album with such a melancholy track as “You Run Away” — and sending it out as the first single — can only be classified as a bold, honest move on their part.  Either that or it indicates an utter lack of concern for marketing (which is well within their discretion, now, as an independent act).  Regardless, “You Run Away” builds up to such a degree that it’s a bit jolting to return to the beginning, so much does the second half rock out that you’re liable to forget just how slow the opening was.

“Summertime,” the second track, is framed by a big, beautifully crunchy riff and some vocal ba-da-ba’s on the outro that invoke seventies America.  Lyrically, Robertson asks, “How do we make it through the days?  How do we not cave in and bottom out?”  This is a tone-setter for the album as a whole, and as the choral response indicates, “Soon enough we’ll wake up from such a daze…”

See?  Even in an album imbued with such heartache and anger, BnL remains steadfast in their positive outlook.

The third track is one of Hearn’s three contributions, a slow-and-steady lament titled “Another Heartbreak.”  This is a song of accepting an inevitable failure, but, as Hearn sings, “it’s still a chance I had to take.”  This reminds me of that noble truth expressed by Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what” (Chapter 11).

“Four Seconds” is perhaps the quirkiest, and the quickest, BnL song yet — and that’s saying something.  When I first heard it, I was somewhat surprised that it had not been chosen as the single, especially considering the characteristic Robertson rapping.  It’s the kind of song that makes you happy to have a lyric booklet to refer to as you endeavor to learn the song and keep up.

Next comes a Creeggan track, “On the Lookout.”  This is a beautiful track, making full use of Creeggan’s smooth vocals for a fitting lead.  Like “Summertime,” there are all manner of interesting effects and instrumentation stretching out just beneath the surface.

“Ordinary” is strung together by Robertson’s intricate picking, but this is a track that clearly features the individual vocal and instrumental contributions of each of the other three members.  Like “You Run Away,” this track is an exemplar of the start-out-slow-and-build-up-to-full-speed arrangement.

The muted electric notes at the intro of “I Have Learned” provide an instant contrast with the acoustic “Ordinary.”  The result is a murky tone, as though there is something lurking beneath the surface.  Turns out that the “something” is a passive aggression.  Listen for the notes Robertson (or Hearn?) plays just before the minute and a half mark; if one’s temper being tweaked could be translated to electric guitar, this is what it would sound like.

As “Every Subway Car” rolls out, it becomes clear that this is not an album devoid of love songs.  The spray paint metaphor — the narrator’s handy work being brilliantly described as “urban gardens in bloom” — is classic Barenaked Ladies, and the track is catchy as hell.

Just in time, Hearn returns with a change of pace in “Jerome,” a ghost-town ballad through “Bloody Basin Road” to a locale populated by “bar brawlers and drifters, gamblers and gun fighters, ladies of the evening, and copper miners.”  This really isn’t a story so much as a song that establishes the proper setting for just about anyone to fill in the plot with their own ghosts.  Perhaps that is what Hearn intended: for his listeners to recall the memories that fill their own “jailhouses”…

The Barenaked Ladies have never produced a better angry rock song than “How Long.”  Lyrically and vocally, the song peaks at the middle as Robertson nearly screams, “I know you know I know you… so don’t say it!”  This song is so good that I can almost forget the “it’s for reals” line entirely… almost.

The band pulls back a notch for “Golden Boy,” but the passive aggressive undertones continue, punctuated by a distorted electric guitar under the vocals.  There are so many ways to read into and interpret the lyrics, that I won’t even begin.

“I Saw It” is, no arguments, one of the prettiest, most heartbreaking songs in the BnL canon.  In their twenty year career, Jim Creeggan has written a wide range of eccentric songs, but now that he has punched out several more straightforward tunes, it is clear that he can write with the best of his bandmates when the inspiration is there.  Of all the sad melodies on this album, “I Saw It” is unsurpassed.

Like ripping a band-aid, I’m just going to say it: “The Love We’re In” sounds, at least lyrically, like a song penned by early 2000’s John Mayer.  (Now, don’t get me wrong, as early John Mayer is, in this writer’s opinion, the only John Mayer worth listening to.)  To be fair, the comparison ends after the first verse is finished, but I had to note it.

An extremely brief forty-five minutes after the first piano note of “You Run Away,” the album comes in for a final run with “Watching the Northern Lights.”  Initially, I didn’t think much of this song, but the more I’ve listened, the more I’ve appreciated Hearn’s subtle genius and the more his lead vocal has crept into my mind and lingered there.

What more is there to say?  Instrumentally impressive, vocally brilliant, and lyrically interesting: All in Good Time is yet another Barenaked Ladies album worthy of making the best-of lists.  Don’t hold your breath for the “professionals” to acknowledge it, though: go out and listen for yourself.

“If You Wanna” (Paul McCartney Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome, one and all, to the new and improved Laptop Sessions Cover Songs Music Blog!  If you’re a regular viewer, make sure to check out the homepage of LaptopSessions.com and see our new features and new redesign.  It may not seem that different at first, but I think you’ll agree that it’s much easier to navigate, especially if you were a first-time viewer.  And, for a limited time, you can get a free mp3 download of my album, “What About Today?” by subscribing to the music blog!  That’s right- just enter your name and email address and we’ll send you new acoustic cover song music videos every week- cancel at any time, but keep the free mp3 download as our gift to you.  Sounds like an infomercial, doesn’t it? 🙂

Tonight’s video will also be the last one in HD (there may be a couple of instances where I can’t get the HD camera, though).  Today, after a scare, I got our new HD video camcorder!  It’s a Canon HV10 and man, what a good deal we got on it.  I found it on eBay in Canada and paid literally a third of the price for it.  It’s basically brand-new and came with a whole bunch of accessories and extra tapes.  But, don’t go thinking I went out and bought a camera just for this- I got it to finally play back our wedding videos (which were shot in HD) and edit them onto Blu-Ray.  I can’t wait to see how it came out!  Not too many people these days gettin’ married in HD.

I’m also posting this relatively early tonight in hopes that my music partner Steve will be able to see it before he goes to bed.

Tonight’s video is a slightly obscure one from Paul McCartney from his 1997 album, Flaming Pie.  What a great album.  Steve and I played for about a half hour extra last Thursday, just going through every song on that album.  I’ve written about my love for Flaming Pie in the past (click on the Paul McCartney category in the upper left on the sidebar to see my other posts), but this is actually good timing because I haven’t recorded a McCartney song for months.  Plus, I have Steve with me, playing his usual great guitar and singing the bridge with me.

“If You Wanna” is just a good driving song- when Paul McCartney got together with Steve Miller for a writing session, he promised himself he wouldn’t write an Americana driving song….so much for that idea.  But, it was really fun recording this one- Steve and I always get so pumped after a good take.  And this one was ONE TAKE!  We had never even practiced it before!  We just went over the structure once and hit record.  Such is life when you’re running on a tight schedule.  I keep hoping for the days when we can have a lot of time to just jam and record a bunch of tunes.

Of course, you’ll see me playing our colleague Noreen’s beautiful Gibson 1967 12-string acoustic, which never sounded better.  I’m hoping she’ll let me borrow it next week so I can record a song from a sorely underrated band.  That song will usher in the “holiday” (there’s a clue) season nicely.  Speaking of the upcoming holiday, I’m incredibly excited!!  I can’t wait to finally play some video games, eat, and go shopping for someone else for a change!  We’re hoping to do the midnight madness at our local chain of outlet stores.  Don’t worry, I don’t plan on trampling anyone for a TV at Wal-Mart or anything.  We’re just looking forward to a really cool opportunity to ring in my favorite time of year: Christmastime!  You know, we’ve recorded many Christmas songs already- you should check out some of those acoustic videos by choosing the “Christmas Songs” category up top.

I hope you enjoy tonight’s collaborative effort and I’ll be back next Tuesday with an all-new video in HD for the first time!  See you then.

“You Can Do Magic” (America Cover) – The Traveling Acai Berries

By Jim Fusco:

I was so disappointed to find that Monday’s video wasn’t a Beatles song- myself and my fellow Acai Berries had an all-new Beatles video ready to go to keep the streak alive, but now I guess I’ll save it until next week.  It’s a cool one, too, so be sure to check back!

Onto tonight’s video:

“You Can Do Magic” is one of those songs that I didn’t need to convince Becky to like.  This was a Top 5 Billboard hit for America in the mid eighties and was their last big hit to date.  Of course, they didn’t write this song and, if my memory serves me from reading the America Box Set liner notes like seven years ago, they didn’t play any of the instruments on it, either.  The writer of the song basically wrote it for the members of America (namely Gerry Beckley, whose “unique” voice actually works pretty great on this song) to sing and had the whole thing ready.  All Beckley and Bunnell had to do was overdub some vocals.  The guitar solo part in the beginning does sound like Beckley’s style, so maybe it’s him on that part…

That first guitar part was something I tinkered with before going to our recording session last week.  But then Steve came in and said, “Hey Jim, how about this over the beginning chords,” and busted out a great part on the 12-string Gibson that blew me away.  So, out went my dinky solo on regular acoustic and in came Steve’s jangly solo on the 12-string.  You can even hear Chris C. playing in the background (he’s actually on camera during next week’s video) if you turn it up, as he was picking the bass parts (an octave higher) on his mandolin.

Let me take this opportunity to say that I’ll finally admit that a Martin guitar is probably worth the extra money.  Every time I pick up Steve’s guitar, I’m just in awe of how clean and clear it sounds.  The low strings are especially crisp and it stays in near-perfect tune, too.  They make a new all-wood version for around $999 (the company cited the recession as a reason to make an “affordable” guitar), but it’s probably going to be quite some time before I can justify purchasing that.  Could be a nice Christmas present from Becky…for the next ten years…

And how about Steve’s vocals?  He did a great job backing me up on this song- again, it’s like singing with my father or my brother.  They already know the parts and just sometimes ask for me to clarify something.  It’s not like I have to teach them the part- it just sorta comes naturally.  What a breath of fresh air.  It’s one of the big reasons (besides his ability to pick up chord changes by ear) why we can bust-out two videos during a recording session.  And Chris C. can sight-read.  One take and he’s ready to go.  My vocals, even though I don’t like to point these things out, were a bit weak, as this take was done after two solid hours of playing and singing.  Earlier takes (done in the first half-hour) were much stronger on my part- my voice was just tired at this point.

And, we get a rare glimpse of Steve on camera this week!!  Don’t get used to it- you don’t see him at all in next week’s video! 🙂

I hope you enjoy this classic America tune.  Of course, I’ll be back next week with another Traveling Acai Berries video, so come on back.  But, while you’re at it, remember that we post every Monday and Thursday, as well!  I, for one, love to keep up with the posts and I’ve read every single one.  It’s great to check your email (remember to subscribe to the blog- click the links on the sidebar to the left) and get a fresh new post/video three times a week!  Plus, check out our past videos, as they’re just as good as the new ones (I sound like one of those annoying AT&T Rollover Minutes commercials) and even if you started today, you’d have well over a year of quality entertainment at your fingertips.

On the personal front, this has been a good week of getting stuff done- painting over the weekend and securing a renter for our place (!!!!) was followed by delivering the lighting to our new house, which we got a mini tour of today.  It looks amazing (we have trim around the windows, which is a novelty that we didn’t have in the condo) and it’s really coming together.  I can’t believe it’s about three weeks away…

Until next week, enjoy tonight’s video and enjoy Jeff’s video on Thursday!  It’s sure to please- talk to you then!

“A Day in the Life” (Beatles Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Actually posting on Tuesday night for once!  Well, there’s only one word to describe tonight’s acoustic cover song music video: ambitious!

Tonight, myself and my fellow Traveling Acai Berries, Steve and Chris, bring you another Beatles cover song, “A Day in the Life”, the masterpiece final song off of the masterpiece album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.  This song is filled with great piano playing, wonderfully crafted lyrics, and a multi-part structure that rivaled the type of “three minute masterpieces” Brian Wilson was producing at the time.

But, we give you the song in its purest form- myself singing John and Paul’s lead vocals, Steve backing my (actually his) acoustic 6-string up with our colleague Noreen’s wonderful 1967 Gibson 12-string guitar, and Chris on his signature mandolin.  Steve and I couldn’t believe how great this sounded acoustically- we just know the songs so well that we remember the little nuances.  Steve plays some stuff on guitar that I always leave out because I think, “Eh, no one remembers that little thing”- and now we finally have those parts!  And, this is only the second time Chris ever took a look at the music to this song- incredible.

I was lucky enough to sing both sections of the song.  Isn’t it great how you get a typical “day in the life” of both John and Paul?  Very interesting how they looked at a typical day.  I prefer John’s method of telling the story, as he puts such an interesting humor on reading bad news in the paper, seeing a war movie, etc.  Paul, on the other hand, gives glimpses as to what songwriting subjects he would touch-upon after leaving the Beatles (doesn’t the middle section of “A Day in the Life” remind you of “Another Day”?).

Now, since Chris Moore beat us to the punch on “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, which we were preparing an AWESOME version of (complete with recorder solo at the end), we’ll have to save that potential video as a “bonus” video one of these days.  Why?  Because every day is another cover song you haven’t heard before on the Laptop Sessions blog!

Tonight is a very, very important night for the blog and one that I’ve personally longed for over these past two years.  Tonight, we FINALLY match the number of “Wallflowers” posts with Beatles posts!!!  Can you even believe that?  20 posts about the Wallflowers (that had two mild radio hits) and it took us this long (and basically a whole month’s worth of Beatles posts) to match it.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our rendition of “A Day in the Life”.  Hopefully, we can get the band together this Friday for some recording again- Steve and I have perfected an America song (I’ll let you ponder which one) and we’ve been practicing some more Beatles tunes (like “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”, which could really use another vocalist, DAD, hint, hint…) and other ones from the Eagles and Rod Stewart.

So, stay tuned to the blog- we’ve got some exciting times ahead.  One more month ’till move-in date for us, as long as everything goes smoothly!  Have a great week and make sure to stop-back for Jeff’s Thumpin’ Thursday in just a couple days!