While it was perhaps inevitable that LifeTime would fail to recapture the cathartic intensity of Terry Callier's comeback effort TimePeace -- a remarkably pure expression of a soul and spirit finally granted freedom after years trapped in limbo -- it's nevertheless surprising how many comparatively few peaks the album actually does reach. Brian Bacchus' slick production, which often teeters precariously close to overkill on TimePeace, tumbles completely over the edge here -- songs like "Holdin' On," "When the Music Is Gone," and "Fix the Blame" are rendered with so much gloss they seem trapped in amber, while the reggae-lite "Comin' up From Babylon" is as ill-conceived as the attempts at disco which marred Callier's records for Elektra two decades earlier. It's hardly shocking that LifeTime's most memorable moments are also its most unaffected ones, allowing Callier's remarkable voice and exquisite guitar the space to breathe -- the supple, sensual opener "When My Lady Danced" is vintage folk-jazz, while "Sunset Boulevard" offers a potent reminder that no one sings this kind of protest soul with quite so much wisdom and compassion. Best of all is "Love Can Do," a shimmering duet with Beth Orton that is as rich and resonant as any of their past collaborations.
by Jason Ankeny