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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Candi Staton: Stand By Your Man


1) Stand By Your Man; 2) How Can I Put Out The Flame?; 3) I'm Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin'); 4) Mr. And Mrs. Untrue; 5) Too Hurt To Cry; 6) He Called Me Baby; 7) Sweet Feeling; 8) To Hear You Say You're Mine; 9) What Would Become Of Me; 10) Freedom Is Just Beyond The Door.

You just gotta love the irony in a record that begins with "But if you love him, you'll forgive him... cause after all, he's just a man" — and then, less than half an hour later, still ends in "But oh, I'm leaving you for good, baby, and I'm never comin' back no more". What can be said? Guess that Tammy Wynette recipe just doesn't work that well, after all, with a fiery black lady from the same Deep South. Of course, Candi Staton still had her several seconds of fame with the cover of ʽStand By Your Manʼ and not with ʽFreedom Is Just Beyond The Doorʼ — but that just goes to show what sort of material was still seen as preferable to male record-buying audiences (black and white alike, I'm sure) in 1971, because in retrospect, ʽFreedomʼ is clearly the superior number here, with a stern bass groove and a defiant, in-yer-face vocal delivery that is not afraid to offend and disturb if it sees itself in the right.

On the whole, though, the album is a bit of a step down, and not just because they seem stumped for new material (there's this dirty trick of mixing two previously released songs with ten new ones, in the hope that nobody would notice), but precisely because, with the Wynette cover and a few other songs, the record dips a bit towards the sentimental side, downplaying the raw anger of the vast majority of the material on I'm Just A Prisoner. Most of the new songs are either simple love declarations, or broken-hearted confessions (ʽToo Hurt To Cryʼ, ʽMr. And Mrs. Untrueʼ); ʽFreedomʼ is the only red-hot statement of self-assertion, and it comes in just a little too late to dissipate the odd feeling that, perhaps, Stanton's spirit was broken and subdued to the standards of polite inoffensiveness.

Still, even so, there is no denying that the regular levels of songwriting, musicianship, and vocal aptitude have all been kept up — because of that, there is not one unpleasant second on the album, and even when she is calling upon ladies to "stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to", she manages to come across as totally believable; there's no attempt whatsoever to show irony or ambiguity (although she does amend the line "keep givin' all the love you can" to "he's giving you all the love you can", to make it seem less of a one-sided commitment), and she gets away with it by putting on that old gospel air and pretending that standing by your man is not that spiritually different from standing by your God. The problem is, with an approach like that, there are virtual­ly no standout tracks on the record — just one lazy, lush, longing R&B ballad after another — and, consequently, nothing much to write about, unless you'd want to expand the review to the size of a lengthy treatise on racial and gender issues just because, you know, it so happened that R&B covers of Nashville hits were financially profitable at the time.

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