Candi Staton “Life Happens” (BERACAH BRI-31340)
By Greg Mudry
I Ain’t Easy To Love; Close To You; Commitment; For Eternity; Even The Bad Times Are Good; Beware She’s After Your Man; Treat Me Like A Secret; Where Were You When You Knew; Three Minutes To A Relapse; Never Even Had A Chance; Go Baby Go; My Heart’s On Empty; Have You Seen The Children; A Better World Coming.
I think it’s safe to say that every fan of real soul music loves the singing of Candi Staton. I can’t think of any artist who is better. From the early Gospel Jewel Trio recordings when Candi was a youngster until her most recent efforts I have never heard a bad performance from Candi, not even a mediocre one. She has set the standard for deep southern and country soul.
Candi was born into poverty in rural Alabama in 1943, and ever since has led a life that is remarkable for its many highs and lows, both professionally and personally. She has experienced fame as a soul diva and disco queen, and suffering from spousal violence and substance abuse. Through it all Candi has never given up hope, and, aided by her deep Christian faith, has continued to strive to realize her full potential as a woman.
The fruits of that struggle can be heard in her latest album, “Candi Staton : Life Happens” which was released in October 2014. In the very brief liner note Candi says, “In life we have good times and bad times, up times and down times but through it all we persevere and realize that’s just a part of life and Life Happens. Each one of these songs represents something that I’ve experienced in my life”.
Of the 15 songs on the album, Candi herself wrote or co-wrote 10 of them. This then is an album with a strong autobiographical quality that sums up much of the wisdom and understanding that Candi has acquired over the past 70 years. As can be heard on the album Candi’s voice is as strong as ever, and her skills as a sensitive and deeply emotive singer are as breathtaking as ever, and perhaps more so. One of the real joys of this album is the reuniting of Candi with Rick Hall, the producer of her three legendary albums in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in the early 1970’s. Rick produced three of the songs on “Life Happens” at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals including the first track, “I Ain’t Easy To Love”. The deep country groove of the song is compelling, and Candi is in top form. My only quibble, and it’s a very personal one, is that Candi shares the lead singing duties with two other singers, and really, all I want to hear is Candi. That minor quibble aside, the song is excellent.
Interestingly the second song, “Close To You”, was recorded in London, England. Once again Candi delivers a stellar performance with subtlety, superb dynamics and impeccable phrasing. The third number is another Rick Hall production. “Commitment” is a compelling up tempo gem with a driving instrumental track and Candi riding high. The song is one more triumphant Staton/Hall collaboration. Next up is “For Eternity”, a sweetly tender ballad with Candi’s delivery as sensitive as ever. “For Eternity” is followed by a lovely country gem, “Even The Bad Times Are Good”. Then come two slices of southern funk. “Beware,She’s After Your Man” features a classic Candi opening rap, and then a gutsy vocal. “Treat Me Like A Secret” keeps the groove deep, and Candi is right in step. The remainder of the album is chock full of fine songs with Candi’s vocal virtuosity in full flight. Every single track is a pleasure to listen to.
Of particular note is the third Rick hall production, “Never Even Had The Chance”, a soul waltz with Candi’s vocal a truly heart breaking tour de force. Her emotional expression comes from somewhere deep inside, and makes my jaw drop at its beauty and power every time I listen to the song. For me,it is the song of the album.
I would rank “Life Happens” as one of Candi Staton’s finest outings. It is astonishing to me that after all these years, and so many brilliant recordings, that Candi has produced some of her best work ever.
Don’t hesitate for even one second. Buy this superb album immediately. Your life will be better for it.