T BEAR – The Way Of The World

Quarto Valley 2024

From Sunshine Hotel to Dangerzone, American prospector of rootsy wisdom observes them changes to see the light in the gloom ‘n’ doom.

T BEAR –
The Way Of The World

One’s not required to know of T Bear to have heard his keyboards enrich the sonic spectrum on many a classic record, including “The Blues Brothers” OST and CSN’s “Daylight Again” as well as – under his real name, Richard Gerstein – the KISS members’ solo endeavors, and though the ivories master retired in the late ’80s, he’s been back with a vengeance since 2021. This brilliant album follows “Fresh Bear Tracks” and picks up where 2023’s “Red Harvest” – a soul-stirring single in support of Ukraine, featuring Paul Rodgers and Leland Sklar and added as a bonus here – left off to take the veteran’s creativity to new heights and more precisely attune his consciousness to current affairs. Produced, just like T’s previous platter, by stellar team of Tony Braunagel and Laurence Juber – both of whom appear here in their usual roles of, respectively, drummer and guitarist, two thirds of a tight trio, with Richard at the fore, while prominent guests provide additional details, – it’s a tasty and gutsy, often funny, if profound, offering.

Its depth shifts into focus immediately, molten six-string lines, robust beat and Ricky Cortez’s bass propelling Bear’s piano and bolstering his sarcastic croak through catchy, crunchy R’n’B of the title track that’s full of self-effacing panache – “hipsters never stop trending”: such gems of a phrase feel too precious to be lost among T’s diatribes – yet the gospel-tinged “Sign On The Dotted Line” that’s peppered with Lenny Castro’s percussion introduces flawed romanticism to the flow. This is the lyrical aspect which the smoldering “Your Husband’s Got A Gun” will spice up with humor and the reggae-tinctured “Walter Mitty’s Glasses” will turn into a merry fantasy, and which the organ-driven “A Change Will Do Me Good” will link to the bright tomorrow via infectious refrain Bo Diddley would die for, but “They Can Kill You” struts its defiantly funky stuff with a lot of reserved swagger too. However, there’s nothing as unexpectedly sentimental as the waltz of “Before The Fall” whose elegant, harmonic waves are anchored by Hutch Hutchinson’s bottom end and the honeyed serenade “Breathe” whose licks embrace orchestral uplift – neither the blues of “Jewel” whose tender ripples are tethered by Richard’s acoustic passages, nor the brass-splashed “This Bird Has Flown” whose spiritual balladry finds Belmont Tench caress the keys and Josh Sklair roll the slider across their boards.

Not that the bossa nova moves and flamenco lace behind “Dinner For One” seem less emotional – in an old-timey, patinated way – yet the equally gentle “True Romance” brings the album to a close in a slow-burn manner, so perfect for the dimming-of-the-day finale. Yes, that’s the way of the world – to want time to spin, together with this album, again and again.

*****

June 2, 2024

Category(s): Reviews
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