Here’s a clip of underrated soul goddess Candi Staton singing her 1970 single “Heart on a String”, recorded on the Fame label in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. This track, along with several others from this fertile period in Staton’s career, was brilliantly compiled on a 2004 compilation simply entitled Candi Staton.
Listen carefully to the next thing I’m going to say…
This record is ESSENTIAL.
The songs compiled on this album are comprised of Staton’s singles and B-sides output between the years 1969-1973. By 1976, Staton caught the wave of disco, and had her biggest hit in “Young Hearts Run Free”. But it was in this earlier period that her work on “Heart on a String”, and other songs including brilliant covers of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man”, Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, and one of the latter-day songs in Elvis Presley’s repertoire, “In the Ghetto” made her into the professional she was. In addition to the covers, Staton recorded originals of her own, including the heartfelt “To Hear You Say You’re Mine”, the sassy “The Thanks I Get For Loving You”, and the brilliantly soulful “I’m Gonna Hold On (To What I Got This Time)”.
Songs like this tied the various influences prevalent in the sonic landscape of the American south together, with the grit of soul mixed with the storytelling power of traditional country music. For anyone, ANYONE, interested in pop music, classic soul, or indeed any type of music at all, you must run not walk to pick this up.
The sales of this compilation were impressive at the time, thanks to a lot of coverage from music rag journalists, bloggers, and music dweebs such as myself rattling on about how great it is (well, it is…). I read about it before I’d heard it. And then one day, in an old school sort of way, I wandered into my local record store, A&B Sound at Dunsmuir and Seymour here in Vancouver as I am wont to do. And I heard “Heart On A String” playing over the store’s sound system; it reached out and grabbed me by the … well, it grabbed me where it counts, people. Anyway, I had to have it. It was everything I had been promised. A lot of people felt the same.
The success of the compilation actually allowed Staton to return to the studio to make a new Southern soul album. She’d taken time off as a soul singer by this time, re-fashioning herself as a gospel artist and recording R&B tunes only sparsely. Her comeback record was the impressive His Hands in 2006 which includes songwriting contributions from writers as disparate as Merle Haggard to Bonnie Prince Billy’s Will Oldham. And as always, Staton embodies the role demanded of her in the songs, her voice remaining virtually unchanged since her Fame label days.
All of this music is where Amy Winehouse, as good as she is, is trying to get to, folks. Find out for yourself why she’s trying so hard.
For more, check out the Candi Staton discography page on her site to sample her work across her career.
For full-length songs and other information, don’t forget the Candi Staton MySpace page.