Following a well-received Go-Go's reunion in 1990, Belinda Carlisle returned to the studio to record her fourth studio album, Live Your Life Be Free. Likely the jaunt with her old bandmates inspired her, as the 1991 LP returned the singer to the sixties-inspired, girl-group milieu. Although Live Your Life failed to chart in the U.S., it hit the top ten in the U.K. and yielded four charting singles including the brisk and lusty "Do You Feel Like I Feel" which remains Carlisle's final U.S. hit to date. Now, Live Your Life Be Free has been revisited by Demon as the latest of its anniversary-timed reissues of Carlisle's catalogue, following this year's similar sets for Belinda (marking its 35th anniversary) and A Woman and a Man (marking its 25th.) This 30th anniversary set draws upon the contents of Edsel's 2013 expanded 2CD/DVD edition, dropping the video content and reformatting the audio to three heavyweight 180-gram LPs (standard black vinyl and Amazon U.K.-exclusive green vinyl). It's an ideal opportunity to revisit this underrated gem.
Belinda's longtime collaborator Rick Nowels returned to co-produce his third consecutive album for her, joined by Richard Feldman, Eric Pressly, and David Munday. Carlisle admitted in her 2010 autobiography that The Boston Globe "had a point" when the newspaper called the LP "emotionally vapid." Though her assessment of the album is a bit harsh, Live Your Life lacked the spark of the star's prior three albums. But it compensated with spunk, attitude, and songcraft. Nowels and Ellen Shipley's title track, which opened the album, was the big sing-along song everyone expected from Carlisle. A persuasive argument to "be with me," it features a "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"-like guitar riff and an empowering chorus.
There's passion, too, in Nowels' "You're Nothing Without Me" ("You're nothing without me/I wouldn't walk out that door/Or you may find out the hard way/Just what love is for...") which was inspired by a conversation with Bette Midler and molded in the style of The Exciters' "Tell Him." Tough guitar and dense production mark "I Plead Insanity," and surf guitar adds to the vibrant atmosphere of "Emotional Highway." Yet the song-with its ominous central riff-cried out for actual horns rather than then-trendy keyboards. Midler wasn't the only superstar to inspire a track on Live Your Life. Nowels' "Love Revolution," with its fine acoustic guitar work, was originally penned for Daryl Hall and John Oates but claimed by a persuasive Carlisle who made it her own.
Belinda also attempted to channel a "Burt Bacharach sort of style," as she puts it in Justin Kantor's liner notes for this release, into "You Came Out of Nowhere." Though the composer's distinctive style is rather hard to detect in the contemporary arrangement, there is a breezy sweetness about the track nonetheless. Written by Carlisle, Richard Feldman, and Marcy Levy, "Little Black Book" instead seems the tribute to Bacharach both with its title and its reference to "You're always there to remind me." The lyric also references numerous other pop songs in lines like, "Yesterday is the only place we'll ever know" or "Day by day, time slips away/Where did our love go?" This pleasant track is enhanced by Pat Seymour's string chart. Future superstar Sheryl Crow (as Cherryl Crow) sings background vocals on this track and two others on the LP including the pretty MOR ballad "Half the World."
"The Loneliness Game" by Carlisle and Eric Pressly concludes the album on an ironically upbeat note, as the lyric is downbeat and seemingly personal: "Inside I know what you're thinking/She's too pretty to be sad/She's too rich to cry/She's no different/She's just the same/No one's left out of this loneliness game..." She admits in the liner notes that the song isn't a favorite of hers: "I wasn't in a good place personally at the time...That said, I think the song was reflective of where I was at." Even in the face of personal struggle, though, Carlisle could channel her emotions into art.
The three LPs are housed in a sturdy box with a lift-off lid. The original album is featured on the first LP in the box set. The second disc has two B-sides produced by Richard Feldman, "Only a Dream" and "The Air You Breathe." Those are followed by four single versions/edits and three period remixes. The third LP offers a further five remixes; of the eight total remixes, four were originally unissued and first made their debut on Demon's 2013 expanded edition. Phil Kinrade has remastered all of the audio. Each LP features a jacket and custom inner sleeve with credits, photographs, and/or lyrics, and the discs themselves have handsome custom labels, as well. Justin Kantor has adapted his exemplary 2013 liner notes, featuring quotes from the artist, for the 12-page color booklet here.
The 30th Anniversary Edition of Live Your Life Be Free is available now from Amazon Marketplace sellers at the links below.
Belinda Carlisle, Live Your Life Be Free: 30th Anniversary Edition (Demon DEMRECBOX61, 2021)
LP 1: Original LP (released as Virgin/Offside V 2680 (U.K.)/MCA Records MCAD-10446 (U.S.), 1991)
- Live Your Life Be Free
- Do You Feel Like I Feel?
- Half the World
- You Came Out of Nowhere
- You're Nothing Without Me
- I Plead Insanity
- Emotional Highway
- Little Black Book
- Love Revolution
- World of Love
- Loneliness Game
LP 2 - B-Sides, Single Versions, and Remixes
- Only a Dream (B-side to "Half the World" - Virgin VS 1388, 1992)
- The Air You Breathe (B-side to "Little Black Book" CD single - Virgin VSCDT 1428, 1992)
- Live Your Life Be Free (Single Edit) (single A-side - Virgin VS 1370, 1991)
- Do You Feel Like I Feel (Single Edit) (single A-side - Virgin VS 1383, 1991)
- I Plead Insanity (Single Mix) *
- Live Your Life Be Free (Radio Edit) (from "Half the World" CD single - Virgin VSCDT 1388, 1992)
- Live Your Life Be Free (Club Mix) (12" A-side - Virgin VST 1370, 1991)
- Little Black Book (Little Black Mix) (from "Little Black Book" CD single - Virgin VSCDG 1428, 1992)
- Do You Feel Like I Feel (Dance Mix) (12" A-side - Virgin VST 1383, 1991)
LP 3: The Remixes
- I Plead Insanity (Extended 12") *
- Live Your Life Be Free (Extended) *
- Little Black Book (Belinda's in the House Mix) (from "Little Black Book" CD single - Virgin VSCDG 1428, 1992)
- Live Your Life Be Free (House Mix) *
- I Plead Insanity (Dub Mix) *
(*) originally unissued, first released on Edsel EDSG 8027, 2013