|1) Taking The Long Way Round
2) Let's Be Fools Again
4) Up In The World
5) It's a Nice Day
7) It's Better To Believe
8) Jesus of Long Ago
|10) Ocean of Love
11) Maybe I'm Right
12) Some Uncertainty
13) Fast Sinking
14) Climate of Her Favour
15) My Goddess
17) Thinking of Something To Do
(Available on C.D. only)
RP Media Ltd
Distributed by APEX/BMG
All songs written by Clifford T. Ward
The CD insert booklet opens with this introduction by Sir Tim Rice:
|"Underrated" is a word used very often in musical circles.
More often than not this word is nothing more than a euphemism for "unsuccessful"
or even "untalented". Occasionally, however, a great artist can
truly be described as underrated, and Clifford T. Ward is one such artist.
His songwriting has been mentioned in the same breath as that of Paul McCartney,
and rightly so. Yet, for a variety of reasons, some beyond Clifford's control,
his work has never reached the vast audience it deserves. Of course he
has enjoyed considerable recognition for timeless gems such as Gaye,
Up In The World and Wherewithal but, in the opinion of many
of his peers, nothing like enough.
This collection of love songs makes this point yet again. Here is Clifford at his romantic best, sophisticated and light-hearted, optimistic yet with the intelligent observer's sense of impending doom, relaxed yet edgy, intellectual yet accessible - all in all, as one of the titles herein proclaims - Contrary. Included are some tracks that see the light of day for the first time. Many intended only to be demos, prove that a good song needs no huge arrangement to shore it up; sheer strength of melody and lyric will do.
A different twist of fate, a different corner turned and this massively gifted songwriter, up there with the giants artistically, would have been up there commercially too. Clifford is the kind of songwriter that makes others proud to be in his trade, and the fact that he masters both words and music (one more aspect than many of us do) makes him doubly formidable.
Sir Tim Rice.
The wise man sat beneath the tree and called the children to gather at his feet. He began to speak in a low, comforting voice. His hands rose and fell, as fingers on a keyboard, fluttering through the scented breeze. He told them tales of long ago, of love and laughter, of trial and retribution, of hope and despair. And they sat and listened; laughing, smiling, living each line in timeless wonder.
He talked until the sun, with its golden, life-giving heat, rose high into the azure sky, until slowly his eyes began to close. He drifted into a deep slumber, and as the enchanted listeners left him in peace, silently creeping away to their homes or to play beside the silver stream, he began to dream.
And he dreamed of a land of youth and innocence, of rhyme and reason, where romance and chivalry coursed through the veins of all men, where colours were true, and songbirds flew in the cherry trees. He walked through deep valleys and rolling meadows, where the earth hummed with life and buzzards circled lazily overhead. He marveled to the echoes of existence, the scream of the vixen, the clack-clack of the jackdaw, the sweet, cascading trill of the blackbird.
He wandered for miles, passing farms and villages, chapels and churches, and blue, forgotten hills, until he reached the shoreline. For a time he stood at the water's edge and watched white horses dance in the waves, and far out at sea, a sail of gold. The sun began its downward arc, the day grew long. Tired but content he turned inland, back to his home, to the welcome shade of the sycamore tree. There, after a journey of such sweet delight, he sat down once more to rest.
Suddenly the sky grew dark, and on the shimmering horizon he saw a wild wind shaking the tall fields of corn. People around him began running into their homes. He saw cattle seeking shelter, birds taking flight, spiraling across the fierce, threatening clouds like shoals of flying fish. A sharp, bitter dust filled the air, caught in his throat.
He felt his tongue swell and burn, and his eyes flood with tears.
He awoke, and the world was still. A dog barked in the distance, the green grass danced in the late afternoon sun, a cool breeze touched his skin. He rose to leave, but he could not stand. His body trembled, his hands shook, and when he cried aloud, his voice was curiously slurred.
Some of the elder children heard his cries, and ran to where he sat, asking why he was so afraid. But he would not answer; he would not speak. So they began to speak for him.
At first he could not believe that his words were so agreeably remembered. Some were shyly retold, tenderly whispered, some were joyously proclaimed; but all were passed on again and again, until they became learned and loved by people everywhere.
And the stories became wondrous songs that rose high into the air, borne upon the wind. Gentle, fresh, passionate, bold; but always and forever in praise of the ways of love.
© dave cartwright, February, 2000
Lyrics for all the songs are included in the insert booklet. Also given, by Cliff, are a few notes for each song - explaining the song's origin and concept. For the song Contrary, he declares:
|This is a song in praise of my dear wife Pat. She is the consistent
one and I am lack-a-day. She does give me light when all is dark and lonely.
Everything written is true and the line "You are forever, I'll come crashing down" is especially true since I contracted M.S. and came crashing down when I kept falling over and my working life came to an abrupt end.
Knowing that this album was to contain the last batch of songs from the old tape found in Cliff's garage, I was expecting something that would be difficult to praise: but not so! The quality of these songs is as good as ever, particularly It's A Nice Day, It's Better To Believe, and Realisation, which are of that variety who's tunes embed themselves in your mind and proceed to repeat themselves all day long! The album starts on a slightly bland note with Taking The Long Way Round - a listenable song, but certainly not one of Cliff 's sparklers! However, the tone is soon elevated with track number two - Let's Be Fools Again, an unfinished song from Cliff's 'Studio Sessions Tape'. Some strings have been added which give it a slightly more 'finished' feel, and, despite some slight background distortion, this song will happily stand alongside some of Cliff's best creations: it is, for me, the highlight of the album - and should have been the opening track!
These songs are strongly augmented by a wonderful collection of some of Cliff's classics - Gaye, Up In The World, Ocean of Love, Contrary, and Climate of Her Favour, and even further supported by the two very welcome 'single B sides', Maybe I'm Right and Thinking of Something To Do, not to mention the catchy, but rarely heard, Jesus of Long Ago. Perhaps the only weak link is the track Fast Sinking, which, I feel, even despite a brave attempt by the studio musicians to inject some life into it with the addition of a range of instrumentals, this song should have been left where it was - on the 'Studio Sessions Tape'.
Once again, it is a little disappointing to discover various back-ground noises making it clear that some of the 'established' songs are not re-produced here from the original 'master-tapes'; in particular Up In The World, which has even had its orchestral 'intro' totally removed - presumably in a further attempt to hide its vinyl ancestry. However, having said this, this CD contains a wonderful collection of songs that knit together extremely well, producing an album that is an absolute joy to listen to from beginning to end. It certainly has my 'thumbs-up'.
Marks: 7 out of 10.
|'Bittersweet'||'The Ways of Love'||'Gaye and Other Stories'|
RETURN: Clifford T Ward