Clifford T Ward 
By
Clive Winstanley

 
In 1973 a Bromsgrove schoolteacher with unfeasibly long hair seemed to have the whole pop music world at his feet. His debut Charisma single, "Gaye", had reached the Top Ten during the summer, his critically lauded second solo album, "Home Thoughts" had swept into the Top 40, he'd made several television appearances and his blend of shrewd storytelling and stunningly evocative melodies had made him an innovative alternative to the glam rockers. All the music papers were falling over themselves to interview this unique new singer songwriter. He had managed to garner the acclaim of the serious music press and yet still become something of a darling in teenage magazines like Jackie and Music Scene. When his third single for Charisma, "Scullery" reached Number 37 in the singles chart at the dawn of 1974, not even the most pessimistic observer would have thought this would be Clifford T. Ward's last ever U.K. chart appearance.

It can therefore come as a surprise to discover that Clifford T. Ward has continued to write and record distinctive music since the early 70s when he was one of Tony Stratton-Smith's flagship acts, and that his songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Judy Collins, Ringo Starr, Cliff Richard and Jack Jones. He has maintained his love of capturing within his strikingly original narratives, fragile vocals and mesmerising melodies, the attitude of ordinary people at work, at play and in love. His quintessentially "English" music defines its own genre but file with Pulp, The Kinks, Morrissey, Vaughan Williams, Bragg and The Beatles, if you insist.

The biggest surprise may well be that his desire to keep producing memorable music is as strong as ever despite suffering from multiple sclerosis for the past thirteen years. Ward's popularity with collectors is on the increase, yet ironically he feels little benefit since he is lucky to get any of the large sums of money which are changing hands for second-hand original copies of material from a quite remarkable body of work, much of which has played no part in the CD reissue boom.

Clifford Thomas Ward (the hacks always wanted to know what the 'T' stood for) was born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire on February 10th 1944 (press biogs always knocked a couple of years off for teen appeal). He was educated in Stourport where he met his wife, Pat, with whom he still lives in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside.Cliff Ward and the Cruisers (Cliff in centre) An interest in pop music was fuelled by listening to Radio Luxembourg as he studied for his exams and in 1962 he formed his first band, Cliff Ward and The Cruisers [Picture on left: Cliff in centre], a popular live attraction in the Birmingham area. Ward handled the vocals, ably supported by Graham Drew (lead guitar), Rodney Simmonds (rhythm guitar) [second from left 1], Trevor Jones (bass) and Roger Bowen (drums). No recordings were released by this group so don't buy records with The Cruisers on the label thinking they have any connection with Clifford T. Ward. Two acetates do however exist from the later days of The Cruisers, a coupling of the Ward/Drew ballad "Rachel" and the blues standard, "No Money Down" and a later acetate featuring a Ward original, "Oo-Wee-Baby" and a cover of Holland-Dozier-Holland's, "Wonderful One" which was destined to reappear on Cliff Ward's first official single release.

A rare picture of Cliff with a guitar[Picture right:  A rare 'snap' of Cliff with a guitar, though he could never play this intrument] This first release came in mid-1965, by which time Ward was a member of The Secrets, another Birmingham combo whose live act initially specialised in soul covers, particularly of Motown material. Indeed, this first and last single for EMI's Columbia label was a cover of Eddie Holland's "Candy To Me" (the original of which had reached Number 58 in the US charts in September 1964) backed by Marvin Gaye's US Top 20 hit from April 1964, "You're A Wonderful One". To avoid confusion with Cliff Richard, Ward's band were renamed by EMI as Martin Raynor and The Secrets even though he was accompanied only by Fred Nash (guitar), Malcolm Russell (bass) and Ken Wright (drums). Collectable by virtue of its status as Ward's earliest recording, the popularity of "Candy To Me" (described candidly by Ward in the flush of his 70s success as, "abysmal and probably the worst song Holland-Dozier-Holland ever wrote") didn't extend much further than Kidderminster at the time and copies are very scarce indeed. A crisply remastered "Candy To Me" did, however, resurface at the tail end of EMI's 1997 "Beat At Abbey Road" compilation CD.

The Secrets (Cliff 2nd from left)By the end of 1966, Ward's band were simply The Secrets [Right: Cliff second from left] and their next three singles, all released on CBS during a six month period from December 1966 until May 1967, contained Ward originals on both sides. "I Suppose", "Infatuation" and "I Intend To Please" are all uptempo songs and "Infatuation" is easily the strongest of the three, a surging song with chords reminiscent of "Heart Full Of Soul" by The Yardbirds and a savage lead vocal from the infatuated Ward.

The group then became Simon's Secrets (no-one of that name in the band, naturally) for their final two CBS releases, "Naughty Boy" in April 1968 and, "I Know What Her Name Is" the following December. By now the band's line-up had evolved into Dave Holder (bass guitar), Rob Elcock (drums), Davie Conway (rhythm guitar), Ian Simmonds (lead guitar) and the inevitable Cliff Ward on lead vocals. Again, these were catchy, fairly disposable pop songs and like their predecessors achieved good reviews in local circles without giving The Move too many sleepless nights. "Sympathy", the B-side of "Naughty Boy", reappeared in a smoother version on Ward's debut solo album some four years later and, mysteriously, another Secrets B-side, "I Think I Need The Cash", recently turned up on "Circus Days Vols 4/5", a CD of psychedelic obscurities marketed by Revolver. Be prepared to be quoted some frightening prices for these CBS singles which, though hardly a fair reflection of Ward's unique songwriting ability, are hugely attractive to psychedelia collectors since they were produced by psych-luminary Eddie Tre-Vett.

Perhaps the most significant legacy of Clifford T. Ward's association with The Secrets in their various guises arises from his experiences touring France and Germany with them before their eventual demise in early 1969. First and foremost, these long gruelling spells away from home gave Ward a deep-rooted dislike of concert tours which caused him to actively avoid live promotion of his solo material in the 70s and there are those who argue with some conviction that this is primarily why he was unable to build on his chart successes as a solo artist. Secondly, a number of the songs which appeared on his first four albums, most notably, "Home Thoughts From Abroad" and "A Day To Myself", were conceived during periods of reflection whilst killing time in Europe.

Shortly after The Secrets split up, Ward signed a publishing contract with Immediate Records. Interestingly, a certain Jimmy Page had a hand in arranging this deal, though the arrangement had a short life span owing to the folding of Immediate in 1970. Ward hastily signed with Island publishing and Bronco used some of his songs on their first three albums. The best of these is the sublime "Attraction" from their "Smoking Mixture" LP on which Clifford T. Ward provides the lead vocal. This wistful song is the equal of anything Ward has recorded before or since and fans were thrilled when Ward's own solo version was released on 1998's "Hidden Treasures" which rounded up most of his demos from this period. In September 1971, Ward was involved in a curious single release for Island which featured "Lazy Now" by the Jess Roden Band on one side and a joint effort between Ward and Bronco's Kevin Gammond, "A Matter Of Perspective", on the other.

Whilst all this was going on, Ward had also been training as a teacher and by 1972 was teaching English and Drama (to fledgling actress and future Mrs Sting, Trudie Styler amongst many others) at North Bromsgrove High School where his long hair and rather bohemian outlook caused something of a stir amongst the chalky gowns and leather elbow patches. The children thought he was wonderful, however, and as his status as a pop star grew, so the rift between Mr. Ward and his more traditional colleagues widened still further.

Ward's first taste of tangible solo success came with the release of the self-produced "Singer Songwriter" on John Peel and Clive Selwood's Dandelion label in 1972. Peel had received a tape of Ward's songs and recommended him to Selwood for their adventurous label. It was Selwood's idea to transform Cliff Ward into the loftier, "Clifford T. Ward", and Ward uncharacteristically acquiesced. "Singer Songwriter" was a promising, critically acclaimed debut which teamed him with ex-Secret Ken Wright and an assortment of session players. It was trailed by an unlikely summer single, "Carrie", which drew inspiration from Theodore Dreiser's, "Sister Carrie", a favourite novel dealing with the reality of the American Dream. Collectors will be interested to note that the single was a different mix to the version which appeared on "Singer Songwriter", though the differences are subtle enough to make expressing a preference difficult. The flipside, "Sidetrack", was much more commercial and until the recent CD re-release of "Singer Songwriter Plus" was not included on the album.

The next single was much more accessible and very nearly made the charts. October 1972's, "Coathanger" was an impish, melodic, radio-friendly love song blessed with an irresistible hook and a smart lyric which used a coathanger as a metaphor for a developing love affair. It sounds corny but Ward made it work. He had now dropped the mid-Atlantic vocal inflexions which had been fine for The Secrets material and this track in particular and "Singer Songwriter" in general laid the foundations of the Englishness and many of the other hallmarks which characterise so much of his work. Literary references abounded and Richard Hewson's strings enhanced the appeal of several tracks. Sales were encouraging rather than spectacular but it seemed a major breakthrough was just around the corner. Three sessions for John Peel's Top Gear and daytime Radio 1 followed which Ward used to reprise the most popular tracks from his debut LP and to preview some of the tempting fare which was to shortly appear on his forthcoming album, including his next single, "Gaye" which was released in March 1973 on Charisma after the decline of Dandelion. For the "Home Thoughts" recording sessions, Ward retained Ken Wright, guitarist Derek Thomas and Hewson's distinctive string arrangements from the "Singer Songwriter" line-up but Bev Pegg was replaced as bassist by Terry Edwards. This effectively became the nucleus of Ward's studio band for the three Charisma albums released between 1973 and 1975.

Initial public response to "Gaye", a quaint love song which according to its composer had been inspired by several women of that name, was somewhat guarded. The single didn't enter the charts until June but DJs, particularly Radio 1's Johnnie Walker and Anne Nightingale and Radio Luxembourg's Kid Jensen, kept the faith shared by most of the music press and Stratton-Smith, elevating "Gaye" to Number 8 (Ward's biggest hit) at the end of July. By this time Ward had made several appearances on Top of the Pops and the "Home Thoughts" LP had emerged to rave reviews by media and fans alike.

There was something irresistible about the array of melodies, arrangements and sheer songwriting guile on the thirteen tracks that comprise Ward's masterpiece. Ward returned to many of the themes he had introduced on his solo debut - sex, unrequited love, politics, family life and religion, with education, greed and guilt thrown in for good measure this time - but the songs were tighter and more inspired both lyrically and musically. The appeal of "Home Thoughts" was universal. Ward appealed to the teenagers but their parents got the message too. You were just as likely to hear tracks on "progressive" radio shows as on Radio 2. You could see Ward performing on both Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test. The NME loved his eclecticism and Popswop purred with approval.

Ironically it would be this wide appeal in an industry where pigeon-holing is paramount if you are to meet the demands of record company marketing departments which would partly prevent Ward from going on to become a major 70s star, but for the moment the owner of a copy of "Home Thoughts" could stack it proudly next to "Pet Sounds" and "Revolver" and enjoy its originality.

Ward continued to use unlikely metaphors in his lyrics - love affairs compared to broken down cars and time seen as a magician - and the homesick title track's explicit references to Worcestershire and uninhibited English sentimentality were very affecting. Charisma originally released "Home Thoughts From Abroad" as the flipside to "Gaye" but re-promoted it as an A-side long after Ward had departed their roster in 1976. Even Jack Jones was moved to include an excellent cover of "Home Thoughts From Abroad" on his 1975 album, "What I Did For Love". Ward's imagination ran wild on songs like "The Dubious Circus Company", "The Traveller" (covered in September 1973 by old friends Bronco for a Polydor single) and "Crisis" and his sheer love of wordplay was best shown on the marvellous, "Wherewithal" which became the follow-up single to "Gaye" in September. Ward said at the time that he wrote "Wherewithal" simply because he liked the word. This must be the only composition ever to describe a lover as "non-pareil" and to so effectively juxtapose such a searing guitar solo in the middle of so gentle a song. Every track on "Home Thoughts" was a gem and the album sounds as fresh today as it did then.

It was lavishly packaged in a gatefold sleeve, adorned internally with wry comments on the tracks by Ward and photographs of his family. Curiously, despite being a consistent seller and Ward's most successful album to date, "Home Thoughts" peaked at Number 40 in the album charts and, even more surprisingly given the success of "Gaye" and the rave reviews, "Wherewithal" failed to crack the Top 50. The non-album flipside, "Thinking Of Something To Do" was naughty but very nice and it's worth tracking the single down to obtain this track.

Cliff and Debbie - on her wedding dayWard was now at his most prolific and a new single and album were soon unleashed at the end of 1973. Depending on your own outlook, "Scullery" is either an embarrassing piece of chauvinistic bile or a touching tribute to Mrs. Pat Ward - who actually was quite happy to be accorded the honour of being celebrated alongside her washing machine and saucepans. It became Ward's second most successful single though and got him back on Top of the Pops. The whole of "Mantle Pieces" was definitely greater than the sum of its parts, nothing really standing out except the achingly heartfelt, "For Debbie And Her Friends" in which Ward paid tribute to his disabled daughter [Picture right: taken at Debbie's wedding in May 1985]. How ironic in retrospect that he implored her to tell him what life in a wheelchair was really like. As he said in a 1995 interview, "Now I bloody well know !"

Overall the album was a pleasant remould of "Home Thoughts", lyrically very strong though perhaps trying a little too hard to show off Ward's social conscience. Ward has always said that he conceived "Mantle Pieces" as a very different album to "Home Thoughts" but most fans see it as very much its understudy. There is probably more compassion on "Mantle Pieces" (whose short chart life ended at Number 42) and Ward himself was a victim of his own success since everyone took it as read that he would come up with something which was better than "Home Thoughts". American Pie Syndrome, if you like. The earliest issues of "Mantle Pieces" contained an inner bag with lyrics and photos of Ward and the musicians who had worked on the album. Both "Mantle Pieces" and "Home Thoughts" were issued simultaneously in the U.S.A. at the beginning of 1974, sadly without arousing much interest, but Ward's continued success in his own country seemed assured.

Journalists would often press him on when he was intending to tour. Ward offered various excuses - a tour would happen eventually, the songs were too complex to do justice to on stage, he was too busy writing new material and so on - and steadfastly refused to leave the leaky cisterns of Worcestershire, aside from a few promotional visits to Europe where his songs were well received. There are some splendid European and indeed South American picture sleeve editions of all his Charisma singles available to the collector who searches hard and, unusually for one so "English", Ward has to this day a fan base which spans the globe.

The Wards: Pat, Martin, Sam, Cliff, Debbie[Picture left: The Wards: Pat, Martin, Sam, Cliff and Debbie] Given that by now Ward had resigned his teaching post to concentrate on developing his musical career, it's surprising that 1974 brought only one new release, the disappointing interstellar single, "Jayne (From Andromeda Spiral)" which was a little too unorthodox and mechanical even for the most diehard fan. Its B-side, the jaunty non-album, "Maybe I'm Right", was much more the ticket and early white labels of Ward's next LP, "Escalator" contained both tracks. The version of "Jayne", however, was drastically reworked in a completely different tempo which Ward preferred. These early pressings also contain a much rockier version of the title track and are worth investigating. The single label credits both sides as being available on "Escalator" (originally planned for release in September 1974) but they were conspicuously absent when the album finally appeared in March 1975.

In press interviews intended to promote "Escalator", Ward was declaring himself fed up with the whole project and seemed more enthusiastic about future recordings and a stage musical project based on "The Hobbit" which eventually fell foul of copyright problems. He blamed the album's delay on technical problems and acknowledged that he and the record company hadn't entirely seen eye-to-eye about "Jayne". During all this upheaval, Ward had contributed a charming modern hymn, "Jesus Of Long Ago", to a religious concept album featuring various Charisma artists entitled "Beyond An Empty Dream" which passed most people by at the time of its early 1975 release so it is another highly collectable item.

"Escalator" was, despite Ward's misgivings, a magnificent collection of songs and showed off his maturing keyboard skills to great effect. The album included the infectious single, "Jigsaw Girl" and one of his finest compositions, "A Day To Myself". Conceived during his time touring France, this moving anti-war song derived its inspiration from a First World War cemetery which Ward had stumbled upon during a day's rest from touring. "The Way Of Love" and "A Sad Affair" are exceptional love songs and "Escalator" was critically well-received. It failed to engage enough public interest to give Ward's career the kickstart it needed and when Virgin reissued Ward's Charisma material on CD in 1992, "Escalator" was overlooked, although six tracks feature on the "Gaye And Other Stories" CD compilation.

After "Escalator", Ward and Charisma went their separate ways and Ward signed to Phonogram for whom he released three albums during the 1970s which, despite some quite sensational highlights, failed to achieve the consistency of his work to date. The title track of the first, "No More Rock'n'Roll" , was a popular single amongst radio stations at the tail-end of 1975 but overall the album seemed to lack direction. "Jayne (From Andromeda Spiral)" now finally appeared in the version originally intended for "Escalator" and although this is a pleasant album, only the remarkable "Up In The World", part of an aborted project for the BBC's Play For Today series Ward was working on, really scaled the heights. Cliff Richard eventually picked up on "Up In The World" and included it on his "Every Face Tells A Story" album. On learning of this, Phonogram belatedly released Ward's superior original as a single in March 1977. Although all issues look the same, there are two completely different mixes of the song in circulation. One is identical to the LP mix, but the rarer version features a harp laden introduction, a subtler string arrangement and a more powerful vocal delivery.

By this time, however, Ward's career was losing momentum, despite a majestic, stirring single, "Ocean Of Love", released in September 1976 which was different to and more piano-based than the version which would surface two months later on his next album, "Waves". Ward's albums were now getting a much more mixed critical reception and "Waves" was no exception. The lyrics were undeniably clear-sighted and poetic and whilst one couldn't fail to fall for the charms of, "A Song For Susan" (inspired by a former pupil of Ward's) and "Heaven" and "Moonlight", the overall effect was less seductive than in the past.

Ward had been using many more guest musicians in the recording process and perhaps in an attempt to add cohesion to his work, packed himself off to Massachussetts, U.S.A. to work with American musicians and producer Bill Halverson (of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" fame) on his next project, the "New England Days" album. Halverson reworked Ward's demos into a slicker AOR product which didn't go down as well as hoped with fans at the time (nor did it sit comfortably next to X-Ray Spex, Wreckless Eric et al in the record racks) but in retrospect, "New England Days" is probably the best of the three albums released by Phonogram in the 70s. It is indeed a more cohesive, integrated package with one exception - Ward's cover of Tim Moore's rocky, "I Got Lost Tonight", which was a strange choice of first single in advance of the album. Ward is above all else a gifted songwriter so quite why it was felt that he would benefit by recording other people's material beggars belief. Despite a colourful picture sleeve, "I Got Lost Tonight" was a flop single and Ward would never again commercially record anyone else's material other than his own.

Collectors might be interested in the cassette edition which was lavishly packaged as a paperback book which revealed Ward's musings about each song and a different track sequence to the vinyl version. "If I Had Known" and "Nothing New" (the latter co-written with guitarist Martie Echito) are beautiful songs and "Someone I Know" deserved more success as another lavishly packaged Valentine's Day single release in 1978. Twenty years later, Ward declared this album's "You're No Angel" to be one of his finest achievements.

Do not presume, however, that these are three albums of negligible merit as they are worthy of inclusion in any discerning collection. Nor did they stiff completely. They sold well enough to earn Ward a good living. The point about them is that they failed to maintain the early momentum of Ward's career and although the plot was to set his unique ideas in increasingly imaginative and innovative contexts rather than repeat the formula of "Home Thoughts", the public misunderstood the script. Ward made no attempt to follow prevailing trends and he deserves credit for in his own way pushing himself as a creative artist and sacrificing commercial appeal as a result. The novelty of the schoolteacher superstar who appeared on Top of the Pops had worn off long ago. Indeed, Ward was finding this image something of a hindrance.

Ward had ended his association with Phonogram after recording "New England Days" and was now managed by Justin de Villeneuve who became involved in the production of Ward's music. A unique deal was set up whereby WEA would release Clifford T. Ward singles and K-Tel his albums. The fruits of this unusual liaison were, however, insubstantial - just three largely unheralded singles in six years, half-heartedly released without picture sleeves by WEA. However, as only three of these six sides have since surfaced on albums they have become very collectable. Indeed, they attracted far less attention at the time than Art Garfunkel's lush cover of "Up In The World" on his "Scissors Cut" album in 1981.

"Convertible" had been a pleasant enough piece of disposable pop (although one might have expected Ward to write about Triumph Heralds or Morris Minors) but the next single was particularly outstanding and became one of Ward's most requested songs. "The Best Is Yet To Come" was released in January 1981 with the lovely, "Lost Again" as its flip (also available in a more polished mix on the K-Tel compilation, "The Love Album") and, despite many nods of approval from fellow musicians - there are literally dozens of cover versions of which Justin Hayward's is probably the best known and Judy Collins' arguably the most moving - and an appearance in Noel Edmonds' Dingly Dell performing the song live, "The Best Is Yet To Come" failed to chart. It only needs to some day appear in a movie and it will top the charts. A simple but stunning, stripped-bare two minute love song, "The Best Is Yet To Come" seemed to announce proudly that Clifford T. Ward was back. It's worth noting that the Irish version of the single had the previously unreleased, "Home" as its flipside. Sadly, apart from a quick follow-up single in "Contrary" (promoted via a rare television appearance on the BBC's Pebble Mill at One) which was backed by the equally strong, "Climate Of Her Favour", everything went quiet again apart from a low-key Charisma single release of "The Traveller", one of the most thought-provoking tracks on "Home Thoughts". This was paired with Lindisfarne's "Clear White Light" in an attempt to promote the reissued, "Songs For A Modern Church", a less convincing version of the "Beyond An Empty Dream" concept which this time omitted Ward's hymn in favour of a more familiar item.

Ward now perceived the Irish market as a more kindred spirit and was spending a lot of time across the water promoting his material via television appearances and even concerts. When a stunning new album finally appeared in early 1984, there wasn't a great deal of promotion in the U.K., though Clifford performed live on Irish television on a number of occasions. "Both Of Us" was curiously released on Philips not WEA and was his best album since "Escalator", overflowing with gorgeous melodies and emotive lyrics. Harrowingly frank love songs (including "The Best Is Yet To Come") from another drama-in-progress were mixed in with an assortment of wry observations of television news, child poverty and environmental issues to form a quite breathtaking album. There are no other musicians credited, appropriately since this is Ward at his most exposed.

"Both Of Us" is an essential Ward album. It isn't easy to obtain since it didn't find its way into many shops in the U.K. and "Messenger" was released as a single in Ireland alone. "Both Of Us" also included "Contrary" but there was no sign of any of the other four tracks from the WEA singles. The prevailing critical view that Clifford T. Ward was too left-field for the MOR market but too square for the charts left him sinking in the mire of marketing's no-man's land again. There is tragedy enough in the lack of acclaim for "Both Of Us", a remarkable work by anyone's standards, but time, the cruel magician, was about to play an even more tragic trick.

Ward had signed a deal with Tembo who, in mid-1986, unveiled his next album, "Sometime Next Year", bearing a sleeve designed by Ward himself which harked back thirteen years to "Home Thoughts". This pleasant collection of Radio 2-friendly material followed on the heels of a vitriolic non-album single, "Cricket", which mixed sport and politics and was manufactured in such small numbers it has become one of Ward's most sought-after releases. Although "Stains" (originally written for "Both Of Us") was probably its most commercial song, the album's title track was released as a single in a picture sleeve later that year.

In 1986, Ward returned to Worcestershire from a promotional tour of Ireland to find that his balance and co-ordination were impaired. He has re-told the story many times to newspapers and magazines about how he tried to mow the lawn but kept falling over and how he has still not come to terms with the diagnosis that he suffers from a form of multiple sclerosis notoriously resistant to treatment and which has obviously affected his ability to compose and perform.

One of his first reactions was to write the remarkable, "Water", which is ostensibly about the crucifixion of Jesus but the sense of betrayal felt by Christ is clearly shared by Ward, not usually the protagonist in his own songs. Although very much in demo form, "Water" emerged on a compilation of out-takes which was issued as a limited edition in 1991 on the Ameless label thanks to great determination by Ward's Appreciation Society and Ward himself who was heavily involved on the production side, crawling around his home studio on all fours in the small hours.

This compilation, "Laugh It Off", should not be taken lightly or viewed with suspicion. It's hard to imagine why some of its best songs like "Marron's Glance", "April", the aforementioned, "Home" and "Dancer" were considered superfluous to requirements first time around and overall it is a fine album which belies the basic packaging it is housed in. The first hundred copies were issued with some tremendous insert photos which show Ward at different stages of his school life and these sell for considerably more than the standard issue which thankfully is not quite as rare as some would have you believe.

Graduate Records subsequently released a CD entitled, "Julia And Other New Stories" containing most of the tracks from "Laugh It Off" plus a few others from the vaults (including a lovely tribute to newsreader Julia Somerville who had suffered health problems of her own and "Taking The Long Way Round", a re-recording of the B-side of "Convertible"), the music being preceded by a message from Sir Cliff Richard, a great Ward fan.

"Singer Songwriter ... Plus" is available on CD thanks to the enterprise of See For Miles but "Home Thoughts" and "Mantle Pieces" have been deleted from Virgin's CD catalogue. The most essential recent Clifford T. Ward release is "Hidden Treasures" on which a group of sympathetic musicians augmented Ward's late 60s vocal demos "Free As A Bird" style to produce a fine collection of feelgood pop songs and a lovely snapshot of more innocent times. Highly recommended.

Buoyed by the success of "Hidden Treasures" and to tie in with an impending biography penned by Dave Cartwright, RP Media hurriedly issued a follow-up, "Bittersweet", a more demanding mix of works in progress from Ward's archives and alternate takes of established favourites like "Wherewithal" and "Escalator".

Cliff in Ireland - in 1992The uninitiated are advised to begin their adventure with the CD compilation, "Gaye And Other Stories", an excellent introduction to Ward's early solo work although it unaccountably omits "The Traveller", one of Ward's most essential songs. Early editions of this collection do not include "Miner" which was added to the tracklisting on its re-promotion in 1992 with a different cover and sleevenotes.

[Picture left: Cliff in Ireland in 1992] Clifford T. Ward is one of the most original musical talents this country has produced. His craft is very much his own although he has confessed an admiration for the work of Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb. Ward's intuitive vignettes of life and love are by turns peaceful, stirring, atmospheric, passionate and gentle. The melodies are divine, the arrangements challenging, the lyrics always acutely poetic and yet Ward sadly seems to have been written out of many pop history books despite, or perhaps because of his uniqueness. At the time of writing, Clifford T. Ward remains resiliently optimistic that his finest song is still to be composed. There is, however, no better time than the present to savour the art of Clifford Thomas Ward.

Clive Winstanley.
4 May 1999.

NOTE: All photographs above were not part of the original article, but were taken from 'Bittersweet - The Clifford T Ward Story' (biography), and reproduced here by kind permission of its author, Dave Cartwright.

1) Ironically, Rodney Simmonds, who also suffered from multiple sclerosis, died in the early 90s, aged 49, of a stroke induced by the disease. (return)


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