Cover Versions, Get This!

Staton The Bleedin’ Obvious, Mate!

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For folk of a certain age, Candi Staton is best-known for the horn-driven, string-swept ‘Young Hearts Run Free‘, the disco track that burned up the charts in the boiling hot summer of 1976. It’s such a golden oldie standard these days that it’s easy to forget just how brilliant it is.

Candi StatonYoung Hearts Run Free

For folk of a different certain age though, she will be best known (maybe even only known) for ‘You Got The Love‘. A track initially released 10 years after her only other hit single, it finally came to prominence 5 years later when The Source transformed the original version into a slowed-down, hands-in-the-air rave generation anthem. With its sparse bassline and E-friendly lyric, it captured the mood of the times perfectly.

The Source feat. Candi StatonYou Got The Love

What many folk might not realise is that Candi Staton is as far removed from the notion of one (or two) hit wonder as is possible. Starting out in the mid 50s as a gospel singer (of course – where else can you develop a voice as powerful, as raw, as sky-scrapingly soulful as hers?) she did the rounds of the secular circuit, regularly crossing paths with a young Aretha Franklin and her preacher dad as they likewise found the feet and voices that would stand them in such good stead in the future.

candi-staton-fame-studios

Growing out of the gospel scene, she signed to Fame Studios in Alabama’s Muscle Shoals and re-branded herself as a Southern Soul belter, a big-voiced, big-haired ‘story’ singer. Her versions of Stand By Your Man and In The Ghetto were nominated for Grammys.

Candi StatonIn the Ghetto

Backed by a countryish, harmonica-led clip-clopping rhythm and see-sawing strings, the production places great emphasis on her voice; rich and soulful, skirting across the top of the original with comfortable ease. Just a thought, but had Brian Wilson visited the wide open vistas of the south instead of playing in his sandpit, he might’ve made records like this.

Fast becoming the go-to act for A&R men who you fancied taking a standard (Nights On Broadway, Suspicious Minds) and turning it into a soulified smash hit single, Candi’s albums at the time were criminally neglected, yet they’re packed full of terrific, rarely-heard Southern Soul smashes; story songs that build and peak and turn you inside out with guilt and pain, yet can keep you dancing all night long.

I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’) is classic Candi. The Staples-esque trembling, wobbly guitar intro and loose Fender Rhodes groove, underpinned by an impressive fret-hopping bass guitar allows her vocals to fly.  It’s a cracker…

Candi StatonI’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)

There’s real grit in her voice, the kind of grit that surely only comes from being a God-fearin’, six-times married Southern woman. Perhaps she took the words of her own Another Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man a little too literally, given that it’s a classic cheatin’ song, a waltz-time tale of infidelity and indiscretion sung from the heart.

Candi StatonAnother Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man

And here’s The Thanks I Get For Lovin’ You, another loose ‘n funky track that calls to mind Aretha in her late 60s peak. A confession song in the same lyrical vein as the one above, you’d think she’d have learned her lesson by now.

Candi StatonThe Thanks I Get For Lovin’ You

A few years ago, Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon’s Records released a brilliant Candi compilation that gathered together much of the best material from this era. Heartache and heartbreak just never sounded so good. I would tell you to buy the album, but as mock Cockney Damon Albarn might say, that’d be Staton the bleedin’ obvious mate. Bad puns aside, you really should investigate it.

 

Alternative Version, Get This!

A.R.E.T.H.A.F.R.A.N.K.L.I.N.

For anyone who needs it spelt out, Aretha Franklin is the greatest female soul singer of all time. Some come close. But no-one comes close enough. There’s a life-lived-full’s worth of hard graft and soul in that free-phrasing vocal of hers. A voice that swoops and soars around a melody; a voice that is in equal parts carried away and controlled, with its ebbs and flows a mirror to the intricacies of her complicated life, Above all else, though, it’s effortless. That’s clear if you listen to any of her records. Aretha is the of Queen of Soul.

  aretha cig

Not bad for someone raised in a broken home from the age of 5 by her wanderin’, wayward, women-lovin’ preacher father. And despite giving birth to 2 illegitimate children at the ages of 12 and 14, she was already well on her way to recording success before she was out of her teens.

You’ll know this already, but if you don’t….

Aretha began her singing career essentially playing support act to her father’s holy-rollin’, roof raisin’ sermons. Dubbed “the man with the million dollar voice“, he had friends in high places, and it wasn’t unusual at home for Aretha to be called on to sing for her father’s high calibre guests such as Martin Luther King or Sam Cooke after dinner. It was Cooke who inspired ‘teen mom’ Aretha to pursue a singing career. For six years she recorded jazz standards for Columbia (after, at her father’s insistence, she stopped short of signing for Berry Gordy’s nascent Tamla label – whatever happened to them?). All very polite and safe, but by the mid 60s, pop music had such a hold on Aretha (perhaps she should’ve gone with Gordy after all) and she signed for Atlantic Records. In 1967, she cut 2 LPs with the in-house musicians at the famous Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama. The tracks she recorded there have since become so fabricated into the rich tapestry of soul music that it’s easy to forget they actually began somewhere – haven’t they just always been around?

That’s the demo for I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You), Aretha at her piano finding her way around the song, as the Muscle Shoals rhythm section allow her the space to express herself.

From here, it was but a mere hop and a skip to creating solid soul gold. Respect, Dr Feelgood, Chain Of Fools, Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, Save Me, Baby I Love You…I could go on and on….

aretha 68

Here’s a few (note – I’ve featured quite a few tracks – every time I thought ‘that’s enough for now‘, another Aretha great would crop up, meaning I had to include it. Really, you should just get yourself to a shop and buy the lot)

Baby, I Love You (from 2nd 1967 LP Aretha Arrives)

Baby, Baby, Baby  (from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))

Save Me (from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))


See Saw (from 1968’s Aretha Now)

A Change Is Gonna Come (from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))

Chain Of Fools (this is the complete, unedited Plain Or Pan favourite, all shimmering, twangy guitar and melodrama on the intro)

aretha bw

The relatively unknown but soulful and groovy Sweetest Smile And The Funkiest Style from the Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky) LP.

Rock Steady (alt mix from the Young, Gifted And Black LP)

The Weight (Cover of The Band track, with good ol’ southern boy Duane Allman on guitar)

….and this writer’s own personal Aretha favourite – Don’t Play That Song, from her 3rd Atlantic LP of the same name. Soaring, swooping, uplifting, effortless Aretha. Call and response vocals (“a-woo!”) atop a Motownish bassline boogie. A subtle one-chord orchestral swell. Brass that builds up to a mid-song breakdown. It has it all. Aretha in a jar. They might play this when they dispose of my dead body sometime in the future.

aretha mic

*Bonus Track!

Hot Damn! Even the Coca Cola advert she recorded with Ray Charles has more soul in it’s pinky than any of those awful ‘soul’ singers on TV talent shows:

aretha and ray