John Cate’s fascination with the Beatles brings out his best singing and songwriting to date on this exquisite album of memorable music that has drama, hooks, and the precision playing you’ve come to expect from him and his crew. The difference here is that by moving from the earthier sounds of his four albums released between 1996 and 2001 and going directly for that power pop arena he’s found a niche that’s perfect for his voice and songwriting sentiment. “Piece of This Town” takes the Byrds formula a step further, to where they were going in the “Chestnut Mare” phase back in 1970. “Hey, By the Way” rocks harder as the music seems to go through a personality crisis over the 11 tracks here. “Other Side” has Beatlesque guitar lines and lots of Tom Petty inflections, which detract from the proceedings. John Cate provides evidence here that he has what it takes to be a pure pop maestro and that’s when it all comes together and works flawlessly. Anthony J. Resta produces the music on Livin’ in the Moment and, as he gave Didi Stewart’s music a different perspective, it is clear his influence on Cate brings out his best side. “Too Far, Too Long” is a nice laid-back country song with elegant guitar work, yet it strays too far from what is going on in the beautiful “moment” that is “Without Your Love,” the song that is one of the standouts. There’s plenty of help here with producer Resta joining in on vocals, programming, guitar, drums, flute, and synthesizer; Cate’s old pal Mark Zamcheck, a notable figure on the Boston scene, adds some organ, while the redoubtable Paul Candilore brings his magical Mandolin and guitars to the dance. “Only Love” is another of the stronger tracks, and like “Without Your Love,” it has enough Lennon, Harrison and McCartney sounds and feel to make any fan of solid harmonies and happy changes embrace what they’re hearing. The title track also deserves mention as a key piece to this outing. The last three songs mentioned can be put against anything being played on commercial radio, from Macy Gray to James Blunt. John Cate doesn’t sound like those artists, but he’s in their commercial league, and if Livin’ in the Moment doesn’t break through it should at the very least be the direction that Cate continues to explore. There’s solid gold here if he does.
– Joe Viglione