Once you make it past the sappy opening "Best of Friends" that overloads syrupy Disney-styled strings, after-school-special lyrics, and a guest duet from Carly Simon, all of which make it sound like a Sesame Street outtake, Livingston Taylor's first studio album of new material in nine years finds its footing. The song does set the tone of this disc, though, finding the younger Taylor in a particularly upbeat, love-the-world mood. The following tune, "There I'll Be," unites Taylor siblings James and Kate for the first time on one of Livingston's best tunes. A lovely mid-tempo ballad with a lilting melody and a snappy electric guitar fill from Vince Gill, it is a capsule of everything Livingston does well when the parts fit. There is still no mistaking the similarity to older brother James, at least vocally, but these songs shade more to classic pop, gospel, and jazz. The extended wait between albums has paid off in the immaculate production devoted to each song. A crack band including pros such as drummer Steve Gadd, keyboardist Matt Rollings, saxist David Sanborn, and bass player Leland Sklar meticulously brings each tune to life, although the disc's slick production and pristine recording sometimes undermines the singer's rootsier influences. Andraé Crouch conducts a gospel choir on the spiritual "Step by Step" and the a cappela vocals of Take 6 help bring the religion on "Tell Jesus (To Come to My House)." Liv shifts into a jazz mood on "Tuesday's Lullaby," helped enormously by vibe master Gary Burton. All told, it's a delightful outing, a little on the cutesy, some might say cheesy, side with tracks such as the playful "Blame It on Me" and the good-natured Lyle Lovett-styled jazz-folk "Boss of Me." But that's Livingston's personality and world view and he genuinely sounds like he's enjoying himself on this upbeat, generally smile-inducing collection. Bouncy, bubbly, sometimes whimsical, but never pretentious, the album finds an established yet often overlooked veteran comfortable with his life and his art.
AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz