CANDI STATON: CANDI STATON (1972)
1) Do It In The Name Of Love; 2) Darling You're All That I Had; 3) Blackmail; 4) In The Ghetto; 5) Wanted: Lover; 6) The Best Thing You Ever Had; 7) Lovin' You Lovin' Me; 8) I'll Drop Everything And Come Running; 9) You Don't Love Me No More; 10) The Thanks I Get For Loving You.
Another solid-to-boot offering, a little longer this time and without any cheap tricks like re-running two songs from the previous album (now they re-run only one, ʽYou Don't Love Me No Moreʼ, but at least they had the good sense to remix it) — which isn't to say that there's a lot of interesting observations one could make about the record. Everything here is about as plain and straightforward as its title and its cover photo. Her name is indeed Candi Staton (at least, I trust that information), and this is her, with a serious look in her eyes and a lot of Afro-American hair on that photo (I trust that information, too). And then we have ten more examples of early Seventies' deep Southern soul, bearing the usual Muscle Shoals seal of quality. What else is there to say?
Well, there's a really good version of ʽIn The Ghettoʼ, perhaps the definitive cover version as performed by a black artist (no offense to Elvis, but the image of him performing the song in posh Las Vegas venues has seriously undermined my capacity of enjoying his version). With minimal string participation and mournful rather than angelic backing harmonies, it manages to inject a bit of grittiness into the tenderness, and there's a special poignancy in Candi's singing of the line "and his mama cries". There's even a rumor that Elvis himself sent her a congratulatory telegram, but the song is highly recommendable to all regardless of whether this is true or not.
Other than that, the album shares the same issue with its predecessor — it continues the plan to soften up and commercialize Candi's sound, concentrating more on sensual balladry than on her kick-ass, stand-for-your-rights side: the latter is only represented by ʽBlackmailʼ, which is more sorrowful and melancholic than fiery, and a couple songs about cheating and lying on the second side. The best of these is probably ʽThe Best Thing You Ever Hadʼ (no pun intended), just because it is funkier and heavier than most of its surroundings, but not in any sort of unique manner or anything. The other grooves are all just about equally pleasant and equally interchangeable. Every once in a while a hook stands out sharper than the rest — for instance, the massive push on the chorus line of ʽDo It In The Name Of Loveʼ — but it would still be a matter of nuance.
Curious bit of trivia: the only two songs for which Candi herself shares songwriter's credits are two of the bitterest ones — ʽYou Don't Love Me No Moreʼ and ʽThe Thanks I Get For Loving Youʼ. You could probably suggest they reflect her own personal experience with Clarence Carter, but the irony is that ʽYou Don't Love Me No Moreʼ features Clarence himself as co-writer, so there's some kind of Fleetwood Mac-style shit for you there. (Then again, scratch that, because that's the one taken from the first album, so it must have been written even before Candi and Clarence became properly romantically engaged). Nevertheless, it is impossible to tell which songs are more credible and convincing — the ones where she swears that "I'll drop everything and come running" or the ones where she gets no thanks for that — and this kind of consummate artistry makes the whole thing both befuddling and intriguing at the same time. If only the songs had a few more twists and turns to them — but even as they are, what's wrong with a little bit of raw love-and-hate material, set to generic, but well-performed R&B melodies? Count this as a no-thumbs-up recommendation.