CANDI STATON: MUSIC SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS (1977)
1) Nights On Broadway; 2) You Are; 3) A Dreamer Of A Dream; 4) Music Speaks Louder Than Words; 5) Cotton Candi; 6) Listen To The Music; 7) When You Want Love; 8) One More Chance On Love; 9) Main Thing; 10) Before The Next Teardrop Falls; 11) Music Speaks Louder Than Words (reprise).
Seeing as how the first track to be listed on Candi's Saturday Night Fever era record was a cover of ʽNights On Broadwayʼ, I expected the results to suck seriously; all the more surprising was the discovery that this is far from the least exciting albums of the disco period — in fact, even the Bee Gees cover is quite welcome, replacing the original groove with a slightly more synthetic, but also slightly more complex tapestry of synthesizers, strings, and brass; the tempo is a little sped up and the slow bridge omitted altogether to adapt the song even better to the contemporary club atmosphere, and Candi's lead vocal is a fine replacement for the Gibbs (anyway, the single catchiest thing on the song is the falsetto quickie of "blame it on the nights on Broadway!" in response to the lead vocal, and that one is preserved with all due respect), so this sort of explains why the single performed respectably on the UK charts (ironically, the original Bee Gees version was never released as a single in the UK, so perhaps British audiences were just too happy to catch up on their forty-fives).
But even beyond the obvious hit, there are quite a few niceties about the album, largely because of the songwriters behind the music — ʽYou Areʼ is credited to George Clinton, and it is appropriately funky, with a multi-layered bubbly wah-wah groove and triumphant brass; and ʽA Dreamer Of A Dreamʼ comes from the stock of Allen Toussaint, a fine chunk of disco-pop arranged in the «light musical phantasia» style of the likes of Olivia Newton-John, but with a smart enough orchestral arrangement to be tolerable. The strangest thing is the inclusion of an instrumental track, whose only link with the artist is its title (ʽCotton Candiʼ) — no idea what producer Bob Monaco was thinking, but apparently, a lot of control was in the hands of horn and string arrangers like Rick Kellis and Ron Stockert, and maybe they wanted to have their efforts appreciated on their own for once, without any annoying disco singers on top of their «body music art».
Weirdest inclusion of all, no doubt about it, is Paul Kelly's ʽMain Thingʼ — a more blatant rip-off of ʽSuperstitionʼ, right down to the funky clavinet rhythm track and the descending brass riff, could not even be imagined, except that they pin it all on a disco bass line this time; the only reason Stevie never sued is because he couldn't expect to reap any serious financial benefits from an album that was doomed to commercial failure from the start. That said, you have to listen right to the very end — bass player Dennis Belfield eventually gets tired of laying down the same chuggin' disco chords, and goes on a bit of a rampage.
Throw in a few gospel-tinged ballads with a high level of energy (ʽBefore The Next Teardrop Fallsʼ), and the overall result is a respectable follow-up to Young Hearts Run Free, at least, as respectable as could possibly be expected of a disco album with no ambitions, gimmicks, or dazzling feats of playing technique. I'd give it a thumbs up, but it is kind of against my principles to formally endorse non-outstanding disco records, and besides, behind all the grooving and all the body heat and all the brass/string/keyboard razzle-dazzle, the one thing that is lacking is the lead artist's personality — here, she is being sucked into the whirlwind even tighter and faster than on Young Hearts Run Free: «music speaks louder than words» indeed, and not in a sense that could be favorable to Candi herself.