CANDI STATON: NIGHTLITES (1982)
1) Love And Be Free; 2) Suspicious Minds; 3) In The Still Of The Night; 4) The Sunshine Of Your Love; 5) Hurry Sundown; 6) Tender Hooks; 7) Count On Me.
I am unaware of the details, but seeing the name of Dave Crawford, once again, as producer and occasional songwriter for this record, obviously suggests that he may have been brought back in one last, desperate attempt to revive Staton's career — maybe bless her with another ʽYoung Hearts Run Freeʼ or something like that. Unfortunately, it was too late, and not even a return to seductive sleeve photos could help. For sure, the return of Crawford means a slightly more subtle and inventive touch in the production department, but this time, he seems to have too many other things on his mind, and there are no particularly outstanding grooves or unusual approaches to instrumentation — in other words, nothing even close to the quality of ʽVictimʼ.
For one thing, the entire album stays way too bogged down in the already discredited disco idiom: the nadir is a straightforward disco arrangement of ʽSuspicious Mindsʼ, a song that I have never been a huge fan of, but in the light of this travesty, I will probably have to thoroughly re-evaluate the Elvis performance — the song is totally deconstructed here, stripped of its orchestral flourishes and reducing its formerly complex gospel-pop backing vocals to a much more simple (and poorly recorded) female choir, and Candi Staton is no Elvis anyway. When released as a single, the song totally flopped in the US (amazingly, it seems to have charted at No. 31 in the UK), faring even worse than the first single, the uplifting funk-pop anthem ʽCount On Meʼ.
Crawford's two songs are nothing particularly special either: ʽIn The Still Of The Nightʼ has a thick, growling groove provided by bassist Doug Whimbish (best part of the song is his mini-solo in the middle), but little else in its favor, and ʽThe Sunshine Of Your Loveʼ (nothing to do with the Cream song — see, they even put the definite article there to mark the difference) has nothing in its favor at all, other than, if you think about it long enough, you might appreciate the smartness of putting a «nighttime» and a «daytime» disco tune back-to-back (hint: the «daytime» song sucks with far more verve).
A few of the choruses have the catchy-through-repetition effect (ʽTender Hooksʼ), but the only song on the entire album that got me interested in its overall sound was the album opener ʽLove And Be Freeʼ, with its tricky mesh of effect-laden guitars and electronics — seems like Crawford had a lot of fun producing that one track, but then, apparently, he just lost interest in the rest of the album, so, despite a tiny increase in quality from Chance and Candi Staton, I still have no choice but to give it another thumbs down.
And that was the end of the line for Candi: after the record bombed once again, she decided that she'd had enough, and with her next album, Make Me An Instrument, declared (in the very first song) that ʽSin Doesn't Live Here Anymoreʼ, switching to a nothing-but-gospel career in the same fashion that Al Green did several years before — and spending the next twenty-plus years loyally and faithfully putting out a new gospel album every one or two years. I have no interest writing about any of these — reviewing a string of gospel albums by a B-level performer is way too much even for the standards of Only Solitaire completionism — but I've heard a few of those songs, and at least she sounded more comfortable singing them than she did trying to find life in all that generic disco crap, so more power to her.