Artist: David Clayton-Thomas
Album: Say Somethin’
Label: Linus Entertainment
Release Date: 3.20.20
There was always something about that voice. You only had to hear a few notes to know it was special, and to whom it belonged. I’ll never forget the first time I heard it, not 15 feet away from him in Greenwich Village’s Cafe A Go Go, on his very first night as the new lead singer of Blood Sweat and Tears, a group I believed in from their getgo, but which was struggling to survive because critical acclaim does not mean jack shit to major label accountants.
Halfway through their first song, “More & More,” I turned to my bandmates and said, “Nothing can stop them now.” And nothing did. Clayton-Thomas blew the roof off the joint, which was no easy task, as it was a basement club. By the time they finished up their set, with an expanded version of “There’s Somethin’ Goin On,” the wheels were spinning in Clive Davis’, Columbia’s head honcho. A low-budget live album was mothballed for a fully-supported major label effort, ‘cause Clive knew he now had a “monster” in the making.
But that was 1968, which is beyond ancient history in the music biz. Say Somethin’ is quite a departure from the blasting horn section of BS&T, except for two things: Clayton-Thomas’ songcraft and that voice. He is firing on all cylinders here, with very tasteful musical support of guitars, keys, bass and drums, as he addresses a multitude of problems facing the world. If you know his life story, you know he knows firsthand what he is talking about. If you don’t, he clues you in on the first two stark and dark autobiographical numbers “Burwash” and “The System.” They are 180 degrees apart in musical moods but connect like they are welded together, dealing with prison life and parole reform. Then like the Sherwin Williams’ paint slogan “We Cover The Earth” David covers a multitude of plagues in our Earth’s 11th hour: politics, climate change, gun violence, leaders and demagogues, etc. Unlike many others who whine about it, the fine wine in that voice makes it easier to listen to and hopefully more accessible? It’s not all bummer tunes either, as he closes up shop with rays of hope on “A Bright Shining City” and “God’s Country.”
As a member of Canada’s The Bossmen, who did “Brainwashed,” with BS&T’s “God Bless the Child” and “Stealin’ In the Name Of The Lord,” and now, on his first solo record, Clayton-Thomas hasbeen saying somethin’ for decades, always with a voice that has never been hard on the ear.