Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Clifford T. Ward - Home Thoughts From Abroad (1973)

You were so nonpareil....

 

Released in July 1973

July 1973 - David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Wings, Slade, T.Rex, Gary Glitter, Suzi Quatro, Wizzard and……Clifford T. Ward. Who would have though that a gentle, melodic song in Gaye, sung by a shy, publicity-shunning ex-schoolteacher from Worcestershire would be sitting alongside those titans of glam rock in the charts? Well, that was the case and my memories are of his song being as ubiquitous on the Radio One playlist as those of the platform-booted stompers. It brings back huge memories of that hot summer, fishing in the Grand Union Canal, aged fourteen, and Gaye coming on my tinny transistor.

This was Ward’s second album, and it is a fetching, pleasurable mix of influences from Bread, Al Stewart, Paul Simon, CSNY, Paul McCartney amongst others and not a little originality in Ward’s clever compositions too. The music is subtly orchestrated too, with strings, woodwind and occasional horns enhancing many of the tracks.

TRACK LISTING

1. Gaye
2. Wherewithal
3. The Dubious Circus Company
4. Nightingale
5. Where Would That Leave Me?
6. The Traveller
7. Home Thoughts From Abroad
8. Where It’s Going To End
9. Time The Magician
10. Give Me One More Chance
11. Cold Wind Blowing
12. The Open University
13. Crisis                                                                    


Gaye is lovely as I have already said, with a haunting, ethereal melody and an innocent, almost naive-sounding delivery from Ward. Wherewithal is a song that has stuck in my mind since 1973. It is a truly beautiful song and possibly the only single to use the French word nonpareil (without compare) in its lyrics. For both these songs, I just close my eyes and I’m young again. Just beautiful. There is a lovely instrumentation on the album throughout, a nice subtle bass and quality strings.

Now, The Dubious Circus Company is familiar to anyone who was a member of the Friars rock club in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire in the mid-late seventies, as it was played often over the p.a., usually at the end of a gig, at least until the punk era rendered it somewhat incongruous. It is a lively, music hall-style fun number that is nothing like anything else on the album. Again, it takes me right back - singalong now - “would you like to see, would you like to see....”.


Nightingale is a gentle acoustic, bucolic song like Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. Where Would That Leave Me? is a very Al Stewart type song with a relaxing backing and another tender vocal. There really are some fine sings on this album. The Traveller is a bit of a mini-epic folky ballad taking in all sorts of religious issues. It is full of clever, thoughtful lyrics and is quite moving at times. The children’s choir bit may be a bit cheesy but it strangely adds to the song’s pathos.

Home Thoughts From Abroad is a Paul Simon-ish song with Ward referencing the poet Robert Browning. Once again, it is a deeply evocative song. Similarly entrancing are the beguiling Where’s It Going To End and the gorgeous, sensitive, melodious Time The Magician. Give Me One More Chance has a delicious bass line and a couple of really appealing saxophone soloes.

Cold Wind Blowing is a vaguely Beatles-esque slow number that reminds me of Paul McCartney in both its vocal and structure. Open University is an amusing ballad about a girl studying in her own time for an OU degree, much to Ward’s horror in the song. Crisis is a short but lively end to what was a delightful album.

Clifford T. Ward unfortunately left this world back in 2001. His music lives on.

Below is a clip of Ward performing Gaye.


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