Belinda Carlisle – “Live Your Life Be Free”
Production and recording for Belinda Carlisle‘s fourth solo studio album began while singles from her third, “Runaway Horses“, were still being released. The success of that album, particularly in the UK, had seen the album remain on the album top 100 for two years with a total of six singles being released between October 1989 and April 1991, by which time, four months of writing and track collation had already been achieved with her next, so the gap between era’s was not huge. The lead single, and ultimately, the title track came in September of 1991, two years on from “Leave A Light On”.
While “Runaway Horses” and “Heaven On Earth” were both heavily produced and written with Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley, her fourth saw new writers and producers join the fold, including Dave Munday, Eric Pressly and fellow Go Go, Charlotte Caffrey, all part of the 90’s sounding Belinda, who herself co-penned two of the tracks on the album, most notably “Little Black Book”, along with ‘Marcy Levy’, better known as Marcella Detroit, one half of Shakespear’s Sister, who were about to have a huge number one hit from their second studio album.
Now joining the ranks of “Heaven” and “Runaway” at the age of thirty, let’s see what Belinda 1991 had to offer and just how different things were…
1. Live Your Life Be Free
All Belinda lead singles have been quoteworthy and memorable and “Live Your Life Be Free” follows on gallantly from “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” and “Leave A Light On”. Another classic Nowels/Shipley pop-rock anthem with an uplifting chorus about living your life and being free to be who you are, a nod to Belinda’s gay following, but also to the wider world that others can find love and happiness with someone, no matter who they are. The song was released in early September, but did not find top ten success as did her previous hits for some reason. It would peak at No.12 in the UK and No.13 in Australia and more alarming, was not released/did not chart in her home country, where sales and chart positions of her solo career had already taken a dive during the previous two years. The song, nevertheless, became a standard and is now a crowd pleaser at all of her live gigs, often one to end the show on. Well done Bel!
2. Do You Feel Like I Feel?
The second track and second single in fact, “Do You Feel Like I Feel?”, has a much rockier edge to it, much in the similar vein to “(We Want) The Same Thing)”, and a natural successor to the former. Still from the pen of Nowels and Shipley, “Do You Feel Like I Feel?” sees Belinda’s vocal turn gritty and dark as she asks a potential love interest if they do feel the same way or if she is on her own. “Are your words really real?” she questions before stating that “I’m the one who wants you, I’m the one who needs you, I’m the one who won’t let go” cue riotous guitar bit and thumping drums. This is power rock/pop at its very best and one of her strongest songs of all time. It was also popular in America, where it did make the singles chart, if only down at No.73, alas her last single to do so as of this writing. It fared a little better in the UK, where it reached No.29 in November 1991.
3. Half The World
Time for a break as Belinda turns on the charm and sincerity with this beautiful ballad. Not one generally for recording slow numbers, “Half The World” sees that grittiness of her vocal applied to a heartfelt number as she waits for her man to turn up or return to her, one half of an incomplete world, waiting here for you. This gorgeous number is co-written with Richard Feldman, who had penned 80’s hit for the Pointer Sisters and Atlantic Starr and it noteworthy for the introduction of backing singer Sheryl Crow, who would later be signed on her own merit as a recording artist. The song was released as a single in 1992, making the UK top 40 (No.35) and briefly charting in Germany, although all other sales avenues were now closing off fast for Belinda. A pity as this song, along with “Vision Of You”, are her finest down-tempo accomplishments.
4. You Came Out Of Nowhere
Belinda goes back to the mid-80’s sound with this next track, that would have been more suited on her first album in 1986. It’s a great retro sounding tune now but somehow it doesn’t fit in with the harder and rockier sound of this album so far.
5. You’re Nothing Without Me
Something a bit more lively now to put us back on track comes with “You’re Nothing Without Me”, although the production once again sounds like it was a rejected track from the “Heaven On Earth” album rather than something a bit more 90’s and in keeping with the first two songs on this album.
6. I Plead Insanity
Now this is more like it! An awesome pumping rock epic that is more majestic even than “Do You Feel Like I Feel?” and it’s for that reason that its such a shame this was not released as a single commercially on both sides of the Atlantic. This is Belinda rock chick with a crescendo of guitars, this fast moving and loud song is a standout of this album! Sing “na na na na, na na na na na na na”!
7. Emotional Highway
“Emotional Highway” leaves spunky Belinda territory and returns us to 1987 for what sounds like part two of “Circle In The Sand”. Breezy and summery, you can almost see Belinda writing around in the sand to this Country-esque pop ditty.
8. Little Black Book
Hoorah, the joyful “Little Black Book” is a continuation of the Country sound but with much more life in its heart. This is the song that was co-written with Marcella Detriot and Charlotte Caffrey, all girls together composing and clearly having fun doing it. Thankfully, this was released as a single in August 1992, some seven months on from “Half The World” and it peaked at No.28 in the UK, at least giving Belinda four out of four top 40 charting singles there.
9. Love Revolution
Belinda returns to a basic guitar pop number now, in the same vein of “Valentine” from the “Runaway Horses” album. The song is great to listen to with lush production and joyful vocals from Belinda, but breaks no new ground where others before it do.
10. World Of Love
The same could be said for “World Of Love”, another throwaway rock/pop number that feels like a holdover from the last album. If Belinda had kept on the same track with “Live”, “Do You Feel” and “I Plead Insanity”, this could have been a refreshing album with more bite to it. Instead…
11. Loneliness Game
And so we come to our journey’s end and another Belinda standard with a sound that spans the mid-late 80’s and could very well have been used on a movie soundtrack. Beautiful, but once again, falling back on safe turf instead of something more adventurous and bold.
The album that would be titled “Live Your Life Be Free”, was released on 14th October 1991, four weeks after the release of the lead single and title track and although her solo career was pretty much finished in her home country, internationally, she remained popular, particularly in Germany, Australia and the UK. The album would chart top 40 across Europe and hit No.27 ‘down under’, but it was the UK that brought the biggest success, with the album peaking at No.7 (her third top ten hit in a row) and shifting over 150,000 copies.
A lot less that her two previous albums, but perhaps a reflection of the varying quality in material on this release. The album saw a re-issue in 2013 with bonus material and B sides as well as single edit and remixes of many of the tracks, including the brilliant “I Plead Insanity”. In an ever changing music world, a year is a long time and two years after the release of “Runaway Horses“, Belinda could not afford to fall back on her tried and trusted sound that had served her so well at the end of the 80’s.
The 90’s begged for a little more, something different and something that would hold its own in a chart mixed with dance music and indie bands. “Live Your Life Be Free” only partly stood up in that market, but could have been much more and much stronger if the sound of three or four key songs had been pursued to full content. “Live Your Life Be Free” is a good album with some memorable tracks on it, but it was quickly consumed by all around it and left the scene much too early. The question was, where would Belinda go next…?