Time Will Tell - Robbie Boyd - Album Review
From the outset of Robbie Boyd’s new album 'Time Will Tell', it becomes clear that this album is here to challenge commonly-held ideas about life, love and learning - with the lightest of touches.
'Simple' instantly gathers the listener up with its bouncing drums and guitars and whilst you could say it’s in a country style, when Robbie starts singing “There’s a fire burning inside of me, oh nothing has to be bittersweet, we’re alive, we’re alive tonight”, it is clear this song will not be joining the frequently-travelled emotional road of this genre. Nothing bittersweet?! No, instead there is a joyful skipping through to the chorus where Robbie confirms “love is on our side… It’s so simple”.
'Simple' presents some big themes yet in a way that leaves you feeling included rather than preached to. By the time you’ve listened to the whole album, it is clear that this first song beautifully introduces everything the album is about: Evolving: “Anything you want you got but never stop returning on your journey home”; Energy: “An old philosophy rings true to me how everything is energy”; Individuality: “I am just a part of the whole”; Love: “we keep building walls to separate, we can knock them down”; and Responsibility: “we can only liberate ourselves if we decide”.
Second song 'The Mighty Oak' is an epic heart-opening number that builds and builds with the powerful floor drums and expansive strings and guitars beautifully matching the metaphor of the oak tree. “Just like the mighty oak standing solid… We too can be this way”. By the end I am singing along with the rousing line “Whatever storms may come you are strong enough to meet them with the love in your heart” as if I’ve known it for years.
Song number three 'We Can Be' opens gently with Robbie calling us a little closer in with his honesty. “There’s a spell that I’ve been under, it’s got a hold of me… now I can just surrender to how I really feel”. Robbie describes a the relationship where “you give me space and understanding, you be you and I’ll be me” and the light but insistent drums and playful guitars echo that sense of space.
After just three songs there is a sense that they are old friends, and this is one of the big gifts that Robbie brings in his songwriting. The songs are unmistakably catchy as if you’ve heard them before and know them, yet they equally feel very fresh…
By the time the live-sounding drums open 'Life to be Lived' and Robbie sings “I was sitting here yesterday, dreaming my life away” you could be on a bench with him observing the world when he drops the bomb of a line “what’s the use of long division if we still got pain”. Here the insistence in the lyrics seems to turn up “it’s our responsibility to be the change we want to see for us… when are we going to wake up?” but never with a sense of judgement: Robbie is an artist who is clearly on his own journey and not afraid to share honestly what he sees both in himself and the world. To the contrary, by the end of 'Life to be Lived', after the breakdown builds us back up, the song has scooped me up and brought a sense of curious joy to the question “when are we going to wake up?” This alone is a monumental turning-on-it’s-head of what a lot of artists in the Pop world present.
'Everything is Everything' is a gentle acoustic song that speaks about the power of the heart to guide us, whilst also opening deeper into the questions of the Universe “what are we doing here?” It opens up spaciousness in me as the listener but not in a vague way: Robbie brings it back to the practicality of what it feels like to live life with a greater sense of who we truly are: “when life’s lived as above, I feel my feet beneath me.”
By midway through the album there’s a growing appreciation of the depth and variation of the musical crafting in this work. Robbie’s collaboration with visionary and multi-talented producer & musician Michael Benhayon has hit a sweet spot in every song: the drums always light whilst never holding back on power, and never over-powering Robbie’s acoustic pop-guitar style. Each track builds in musical depth whether it be with acoustic piano, Rhodes swells or expansive strings, and elegant perfectly-timed electric guitar lines accent Robbie’s honest and heartful lyrics. Robbie’s vocals sound authentic and clear as if he’s in the room with you and there are layers of beautiful harmonies on most of the songs. One thing I particularly appreciate is that these are subtly placed in the overall mix, adding grace to the sound rather than making it over-thick or trying to grab you with everything that’s going on.
The album continues with more musical gems that lightly, honestly and heartfully share at once both a personal and Universal take on life and love. Tender love song 'Tell the World' turns the often portrayed ‘unexpressive male’ stereotype on its head. Equally so in the very dance-able 'Who I Am' when Robbie opens strikingly with “Every time I cry I get an offering to free the suffering I’ve been in so long”, (a man talking so openly about crying in first line of a pop song? Radical!) and joyfully claims “the tender loving man inside” singing “I won’t hide away”, echo-ed by a strong bouncing bass line and playful handclaps and backing vocals.
By the end of the album there’s no stone left unturned in the delivery of Robbie’s message: that his journey towards realising his own wholeness is a Universal one: “I’ll be stronger with my own love… I don’t need you to complete me like before” because “I know it starts with myself”. In “revealing what it means to be wrong” we can learn “to trust in love again”, he says (Moments).
As strong as it is delicate, as confirming as it is challenging, with 'Time Will Tell' Robbie Boyd and Michael Benhayon bring a dimension to this stunning musical offering that feels at once beyond human and yet oh so relate-able to: “If it gets too hard then try to understand, they can clip your wings but you can sing a different kind of song: where each moment is a moment to belong”.