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July 2006

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Candi Staton
His Hands
Honest Jon's (UK)

Candi Staton

It was Honest Jon's Records in England who were responsible for the great Candi Staton reissue of her Fame Records recordings last year, so it was a logical fit for them to be the ones who encouraged and recorded this fantastic new secular release, His Hands, by her. I find it hard to express how much I enjoyed this release, which was so anticipated after her many years of recording only gospel albums. It once again confirms that real soul music is ageless.

The great Barry Beckett was brought on board to play a soulful Hammond B-3, Candi's son, Marcus Williams, is on drums, and her daughter, Cassandra Hightower, contributes background vocals. There is also a fabulous horn section and some great steel guitar on the country-influenced tracks.

The CD opens with a very soulful version of Merle Haggard's "You Don't Have Far to Go," which sounds like it could have been released on the aforementioned Fame Records release. What a great choice to open this CD with. It is followed by the Tommy Tate tune "When Hearts Grow Cold," which had been previously recorded by Otis Clay. Candi nails this track, too. Wow!

The next track, "It's Not Easy Letting Go," is the first of four self penned tracks, and her songwriting is on a par with any of the more well known songwriters included here. Candi sings this with great emotion and with a voice that has remained strong and youthful.

The fourth track, "His Hands," made me think of Bettye LaVette's latest release. Maybe it's the production here, or just the type of strong song it is, but if you loved Bettye's last, you'll love this song.

"How Do I Get Over You" is another self-penned song with some fine steel guitar licks by Pete Finney. That track is followed by the classic Charlie Rich tune "You Never Wanted Me," which opens with just Candi and a guitar and builds into a powerful statement.

"I'll Sing A Love Song To You," another Staton-penned tune sounds familiar and right in place here. Also included is the old classic "Cry To Me," which has seen releases by Solomon Burke and Betty Harris. Candi's version hold it own with both of these.

So there we have it --- 11 great tracks, and an album that will be a new classic for those that have revered Candi Staton's early recordings all these years. This is a release that, had it been issued on Fame in the '70s, would fit right in with those classic albums and be mentioned along with them as deep soul's very best. A release that goes to the very top of this year's new releases. Stunning.

--- Alan Shutro


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