T Bear – The Way of the World | Album Review

T Bear – The Way of the World

Quarto Valley Records

http://www.tbear.rocks

13 tracks – 52 minutes

T. Bear was born Richard Gerstein in New York City and was raised in the Caribbean. In the 1970’s, Richard took on the pseudonym of Richard T. Bear and performed keyboards for many acts of the era including Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Blues Brothers, Richie Havens, Cher, Edgar Winter, Gene Simmons and many more. In 1978, he signed with RCA Records and released Red, Hot & Blue which featured Les Dudek, Billy Squier, and The Brecker Brothers. However, like many other musicians, he struggled with sobriety and stepped away from his music career.

He conquered his issues with alcohol and became instrumental in the development of the Musicians Picnic and served on its Board of Directors. That led to the creation of the Musicians Assistance Program, which is now part of the MusiCares Foundation.

He attributes his turn around to his wife, Nina, who encouraged his efforts. Now skip ahead almost three decades. Following his wife’s death and with her prior encouragement, he returned to the music industry now using just T Bear as his pseudonym. He recorded his first new album, Fresh Bear Tracks, in 2021 produced by Tony Braunagel, and with Laurence Juber, formerly with Paul McCartney & Wings, on guitar. He called up old friends who readily agreed to play on the album. The friends included Stephen Stills, Edgar Winter, Tom Scott, Walter Trout, and many others.  Recently he has been touring as part of Walter Trout’s band.

With this current album, Tony Braunagel again produced the album and plays drums and percussion. Laurence Juber continues on guitar, and Lenny Castro provides additional percussion along with a large group of guest performers. Thirteen original tracks all written or co-written by T Bear are included.

The title track kicks off with a slight rocker as he identifies that “sharks never stop swimming, writers need a beginning, and cheaters never stop winning, that is the way of the world”. He further notes that “Evangelists never stop sinning, politicians never stop grinning” and continues with a long list of other contributors to the world’s problems with tongue firmly in his cheek. He should have known better before he would “Sign on the Dotted Line”, a failed love story with a slight reggae beat. Teresa James guests in a duet on “Before the Fall”, as he notes “electric soul has spoken, the battle woken, so we wouldn’t falter, the candles on the altar, hanging on dreams so dearly” and “he wept for your love”. Laurence’s guitar smoothly glides through the song.

“Jewel” features a particularly stand-out piano run in a sleepy late-night bar song as he cries that “I am bleeding blue over you” noting that she is “the shiniest golden nugget I have ever seen”.  “Walter Mitty’s Glasses” moves into a slightly jazzy groove and a shift into a reggae rhythm as he is “afraid you might melt away”. Teresa James rejoins him on “A Change Will Do Me Good”, another rocker with a Bo Diddley beat and a shift to an organ lead.

The song moves into a Latin rhythm as he “was trying to have some fun” but now “I run down the highway” as “Your Husband’s Got a Gun”.  “This Bird Has Flown” has nothing to do with Paul McCartney’s similarly named track.  The song is a smooth easy glide featuring Benmont Tench on organ and a jazzy interlude with Lee Thornberg on trumpet. The song tells the tale of the woman that was “like a ship on the stormy sea”. “Breathe” has already had airplay as a cut by Walter Trout on his latest album, “Broken”. T Bear’s vocals and piano lead provides the song with an additional texture.

“They Can Kill You” is a turn to funk with Lee Thornberg again providing trumpet and trombone and with Mike Finnigan on organ. Halfway through the song after identifying the many ways of death, he announces that “They” are girls, “but what a beautiful way to go”. “Dinner For One” has a bit of a rhumba beat as he laments on the efforts he put into a dinner with remembrances of his lost love. His lyrics offer a powerful image of the woman for whom he obviously had so much love. “True Romance” is a nice follow-up to the previous song as he says your love is “hidden in my heart, in my mind is where you will always stay.”

The closing song “Red Harvest” is shown as a bonus song with Paul Rodgers on vocals and Leland Sklar on bass. It starts with a military cadence as it cries for the family and children losing their lives in a horrible battle. While never directly named, the song clearly and strongly provides a clarity to the horribleness of the battle that exists in Ukraine.

T. Bear’s voice has a southern twang that sometimes brings to mind Dr. John or Leon Russell. His lyricism paints ample pictures of the themes of each song. It is hard not to be moved by the latter two romantic songs or by the picture he paints of the horrors of war in “Red Harvest”. But many of the songs are for pure fun and easily accomplishes that as well.

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