Mojo Magazine #139 (UK)
**** (four stars)
Back To Even
New Boss Sounds
Deft guitar and harmony-driven powerpop from fine Nashville songsmith.
Formerly of hit country duo Foster & Lloyd, and more recently co-writer of Beth Nielsen Chapman's Trying To Love You, Bill Lloyd now mines the rich seam of powerpop. Ringing guitars and Beatles harmonies - few can pull this off, but Bill has a knack for lasting melodies and nagging hooks. Bendy guitars introduce the optimistic title track, in which he announces that, after a period in the doldrums, he has cleared the deficit and is "back to even", a neat lyrical premise. The quality is maintained throughout and such is Bill's surefootedness that other songwriters line up to collaborate, notably Don Henry, Peter Case, Clive Gregson and the aforementioned Nielsen Chapman. Discs such as these are rare and often buried by a
glut of mediocre releases, but if early Rembrandts, Fountains Of Wayne or, dare I say, the better aspects of Busted tick your boxes you'll love this.
Bill Lloyd / Back To Even (New Boss Sounds)
When the rootsy-pop Mount Rushmore is constructed, Bill Lloyd will be holding down the George Washington slot (my tabletop mock-up has Marshall “Abe” Crenshaw on the other bookend; the Tom and Ted slots remain open). Many folks introduction to Lloyd come courtesy of the mid-80’s country duo Foster and Lloyd, but he started out in the late Œ70’s, first with Southern Star (a band that also featured Kim Richey) and then with the new-wave leaning Sgt. Arms. In addition to three previous full-length solo albums, Lloyd has recorded with The Sky Kings and with Jamie Hoover, teaming up with the latter earlier this year for a hook lover’s feast titled “Paparazzi. And his discography reveals involvement in an incredible 28 “various artists” projects ranging from tribute albums to regional and international compilations.
Lloyd’s work has consistently been of such high quality that, of Back To Even, you might think “ho-hum, another four-star-effort” and elect to pass it by. Here’s some unsolicited advice: don’t. Instead, dig in and appreciate any number of memorable moments, some striking, some subtle. There’s the album-opening title track whose first 15 seconds define the word catchy while housing the memorable scene and album setting line, “I’ve been in the red and I’ve been in the black/ It’s good to be back to even”. Seek out Rusty Young’s pedal steel exclamation points on “Dancing With the Past”, and Richey’s harmonies and Peter Case’s harmonica on the Lloyd/Case co-write “For the Longest Time”. (Other guests and /or co-writers include Don Dixon, Clive Gregson, Beth Nielsen Chapman, and Nashville chamber pop band, Swandive).
Perhaps, most of all, savor the collective chime that is “Kissed Your Sister”, which is equal parts nostalgia and regret with an undercoat of giddiness. The song, like Bill Lloyd, is monumental.
The Disc of the Day was a battle in the Pop-Rock arena. That’s where I find so much truly quality Nashville music. Can I get a witness for Bill Lloyd? What a treasure he is on so many levels. We’re a lucky town to have him.
Bill Lloyd / Back To Even (New Boss Sounds)
Track: “Back To Even” Writers: Bill Lloyd / Don Henry
In a town full of pop talents, this guy reigns supreme. Does anyone have better Beatlesque hooks? Does anyone make records as charming? Does anyone deserve pop stardom more? The answer to all of the above is “no”. And the answer to this crunchy bopping CD title tune is a resounding “YES”.
Robert K. Oermann
THE RAGE / Nashville, TN.
Whip around the cable television landscape at about 3AM, and chances are you’ll find the Little Giant ladder system infomercials on no fewer than five different channels. The miracle device promises two dozen different configurations, anticipating your every ladder need. if you find yourself needing to paint the inside of a stairwell situated over a pair of hydrangea bushes, than this thing is the tool for you.
What does any of this rambling have to do with this record? Simple. No matter what power pop configuration you need (and there are far more than two dozen), Bill Lloyd is your man.
Back to Even finds Lloyd in comfortable surroundings, crafting solid , hooky, pop tunes with a group of friends that includes songwriters Don Henry, Beth Neilsen Chapman and Bill DeMain and musicians such as drummers Ken Coomer and Greg Morrow; guitars Clive Gregson and Rusty Young and bassists Byron House and Robert Reynolds.
However, the songs on Back to Even take on a slightly darker hue than past Lloyd efforts, due most likely to personal tumult over the past couple of years. There are equal parts regret (Almost Taken, The World is a Different Place Without You), analysis (Me Against Me, For the Longest Time) and acceptance (the title track , Dancing with the Past) that showcase the gamut of real, adult emotion in the face of unexpected personal change. But Lloyd is a master of showing the light within the dark, as well, rolling out the fun tracks like Dial Nine and Kissed Your Sister as counterpoints to the records overarching heaviness.
With Back to Even, whether he intended it or not, Bill Lloyd shows that power pop doesn’t have to always be about girls or cars or fanciful flights of imagination; that it’s a musical form capable of conveying more than the jangle normally let’s on. Leave to a master craftsman to figure out a new and better way of use his tools.
Back To Even (New Boss Sounds)
Bill Lloyd is back! Any release from Nashville’s enormously talented pop savant is a cause for celebration and his new record, Back To Even, certainly does not disappoint. Featuring co-writes with Peter Case, 20/20’s Steve Allen, Clive Gregson and Swandive’s, Bill DeMain, this is a joyously hooky feast for the ears, with classic-sounding pop songs like “I Got It Bad” , “Dancing With the Past” and the cheery title cut vying for best of-disc with moodier numbers such as “Me Against Me” and Almost Taken”. There’s even a al all-too-brief steaming-rocker-with-scratchy-guitar called “Kissed your Sister” with Lloyd rhyming the title with “pop up like a blister”, “a game of Naked Twister” and “like that song by Mister Mister”. Genius, I say.
John M. Borack
USA TODAY 11.23.04
Bill Lloyd “Back To Even” (***)
Guitar-based pop-rock (sometimes known as power pop) used to be music’s dominant form in The Beatles mid-60’s heyday. Now it’s a niche populated by hundreds of artists worldwide competing for a relatively small sales market. Because everyone in the narrowly focused but populous power-pop arena uses essentially same straightforward structure, style, instruments and chords, distinctive artists are hard to find. But Lloyd is a master of the form. Guitars chime, harmonies soar, hooks abound on effortless-sounding songs such as Another Side and the title track. And to his advantage, he deploys effective country elements held over from his late-80’s incarnation as a star in the duo Foster & Lloyd, when he and like-minded artists such as the Desert Rose Band forged a fabulous country/pop-rock hybrid that revitalized Nashville.
BACK TO EVEN **** (NEW BOSS SOUNDS)
Nashville power-pop godfather returns.
Those who remember him from 80’s country-rock duo Foster & Lloyd, or from his guest slots with Marshall Crenshaw and Steve Earle, will know Lloyd has an expert at country and power-pop fusions similar to Pat Buchanan. The 15 tracks here include collaborations with Poco’s Rusty Young, Peter Case and Beth Nielsen Chapman who’s “Dancing With the Past”- symbolizes the twangy country/tangy rhythms on offer. Essentially though, this is a class solo disc with some perfectly executed bittersweet pieces like “Me Against Me” and “Kissed Your Sister” to lengthen the summer.
HARP MAGAZINE NOV/DEC. 2004
Back to Even (New Boss Sounds)
JAMIE HOOVER & BILL LLOYD
Power pop titan Bill Lloyd tends to keep us waiting a good while between each release, so the near-simultaneous appearance of two Lloyd projects - one a solo album, the other a collaboration with longtime Spongetone Jamie Hoover - qualifies as an embarrassment of riches. Back to Even features plenty of vintage Bill Lloyd music (along with, by his own admission, some unusually personal lyrics). There's jangling and kerranging power pop, naturally, but lots of other pop as well: country-rock/power-pop double-yer-hybrids reminiscent of Foster & Lloyd, somber acoustics, jazzy ruminations, Badfinger recapitulations, new wave echoes and way-cool instrumental bridges and snippets. There's plenty of collaboration on the songwriting and playing/singing fronts, too, from Lloyd pals such as Peter Case, Swan Dive, Don Henry and Beth Nielsen Chapman. On Paparazzi, it's all Lloyd and Hoover (except for the able assistance of the Smithereens' Dennis Diken on drums): The credits inform us that all of the songs were co-written and performed by the pair, and lead vocal duty is divided equally. There's no sense of "Hoover" or "Lloyd" contributions here; just classic sounding songs that, if more narrowly constructed than those on Back to Even, still run the gamut of the power pop vocabulary with ease and style.
THE BIG TAKEOVER
Bill Lloyd - Back to Even (New Boss Sounds)
Lloyd’s epitaph will begin with former half of the country duo Foster & Lloyd who fused Merseybeat with the Everly Brothers.’ Long after the split, Lloyd pays the bills (as does ex-partner Radney Foster) as a Nashville tune-spinner while issuing sporadic solo outings that appeal to an audience with credit card accounts at Not Lame. The title cut is a stunner‹so much so that at first the rest of the album pales in comparison. Repeated plays reveal a gifted pop troubadour who can wear his grief on his sleeve ("The World’s a Different Place Without You") or shove his existential angst into your face ("Almost Taken") and leave you wanting more. With help from an able-bodied assortment of fellow singer/songwriters (Peter Case, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Bill DeMain, Pat Buchanan, Don Henry, Steve Allen), Lloyd has delivered another fine slab of thinking man’s pop.
- Brad Harvey
Bucketfull of Brains
Winter 2004 Issue #67
Back To Even (New Boss Sounds)
The venerable one is back with an excellent disc that showcases his classic style, as well as adding a few new wrinkles. Longtime fans will be able to feast their ears on that familiar, beautiful jangle which permeates tracks like “Back To Even”, “Dancing With the Past” and “I Got It Bad”, but Lloyd breaks some new ground with the raga-inflected instrumental “Hindon’t” and the coffeehouse jazz of “Me Against Me”. Other standouts include “Dial Nine”, an up-tempo tune with some really cool chord changes, the spare acoustic balled, “The World’s A Different Place Without You”, the rootsy “For the Longest Time” (co-written with Peter Case who knows his way around a root or two) and the dirty but sweet, “The Perfect Crime”. If this album puts Lloyd back to even, one wonders what gems he’ll provide when he’s ahead.
SAN DIEGO CITY BEAT
Bill Lloyd: Back To Even (New Boss Sounds) 8.6 out of 10
Goes Well With: the dB’s, Tommy Keene, The Windbreakers
Singer-songwriter Bill Lloyd was one-half of the now-defunct Foster & Lloyd, the duo that dominated country radio in the minute and a half between the exit of The Judds and the entrance of Brooks & Dunn. And if there was any doubt as to who was contributing what, the duo’s 1990 separation made things conspicuously clear. Radney Foster returned to country’s Top 10 with “Nobody Wins” while Lloyd dove headlong into the pool of Beatles-influence that informed his pre-Nashville career.
Back to Even, Lloyd’s third release since the split, continues in that classic pop vein, and while this is a solo record in every sense of the word (Lloyd produces, engineers, sings, plays guitar, bass, mandolin, piano and
harmonica) he’s occasionally and ably supported by ‘80s Southern pop icon Don Dixon, Mavericks’ bassist Robert Reynolds and Kim Richey, among other local friends. It proves once again that music, if not relationships, is very often abiding.
Bill Lloyd Back To Even
Label: New Boss Sounds
If you like: The dB's, smart pop
Song to download: "Dancing with the Past"
Three out of Four Stars
Bill Lloyd tasted the Big Time as the back end of Foster & Lloyd, a duo that fused pop and country in a way that was listenable and downright inventive. Lloyd still lives in Nashville, where he maintains a presence in country music - keep in mind that Lloyd was once under the not-wholly-incorrect impression that country music was what Dave Edmunds played.
Still, Lloyd is a passionate student and fan of pop; his string of critically acclaimed solo albums is a textbook of pop at its most ingenious.
His latest pop excursion, Back To Even, is among his most varied and, ultimately, best, works. To goose things along, he co-writes with and employs a host of should-be-household-name talents, including Peter Case, Kim Richey, Don Dixon and Beth Nielson Chapman. Some songs jangle (the title cut), other songs rock ("Dial Nine"), but all boast subtle twists of melody and arrangement that turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. It takes multiple listens to fully grasp, but Back To Even is one of those albums in which repetition is a pleasure, not a chore.
This is Lloyd's best, most consistent solo effort, and that's saying a mouthful. Plenty of jangle, but plenty of a lot more, too, populates these solid tunes. What is most striking is the command the artist has over his warm, soulful voice; never has it sounded so true.
Lloyd gets off to a running start with the infectious title song, an in-your-face rocker. "Dancing with the Past" keeps things moving in an upbeat fashion, as Lloyd puts a vote in for looking toward the future instead of living in the past. The song's co-writer, Beth Neilsen Chapman, contributes some lovely backing vocals.
The lovely instrumental "Hindon't" is played from first note to last by Lloyd, showcasing his instrumental skills to great effect; dig the allusion to George Harrison's sitar playing as the song comes to a close. The straight-ahead rockers "Dial Nine" and "Kissed Your Sister" are two-of-a-kind; both feature strikingly catchy choruses and infectious beats. In a fight to the finish, I think "Sister" would win, cheesy synth line and all, mostly because the song comes alive in widescreen fashion, notching only 2:05 on the clock, and suggests a game of "naked Twister" for your listening, dancing and romancing pleasure.
Back to Even throws the occasional aural curve ball, as in the light, jazzy "Me Against Me," which features Don Dixon on bass. The deliberately-paced "The Perfect Crime," co-written with popster Pat Buchanan, seems somehow different from the album's other fare, as does the closing anthem, "Oasis," on which Lloyd plays everything except drums (most notably some great, bitchin' solo guitar). "Nothing can erase this oasis of love," Lloyd sings on this song, that will go down as one of his best.