Clifford T. Ward

Singer Songwriter

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One of many singer/songwriters who surfaced in the wake of Paul McCartney -- a British phenomenon, to be certain; in the States, James Taylor was a catalyst -- Clifford T. Ward had a gentle gift for melody, always emphasizing a graceful, sweet lilt in the flow from verse to chorus. He didn't toss off songs, he constructed them, and this care is certainly evident on his 1971 debut, Singer Songwriter, an uneven but largely appealing collection of melody-heavy pop tunes. More are grounded in acoustic guitar than you'd expect -- "A Dream" feels like a remnant from British folk, eerie in its strums -- but there are music hall flashbacks ("Anticipation") balanced with a bunch of propulsive midtempo pop ("Coathanger" [which begins in a manner not dissimilar to his best-known song, "Wherewithall"], "Rayne," "God Help Me"). The tongue-in-cheek "The Session Singer" demonstrates how clever Ward could be although there are times here when he's slightly mired in sincerity ("The Cause Is Good"), but even those slips are endearing, largely due to Ward's strong melodic instincts. There's a slight dourness to Singer Songwriter that prevents it from being transcendent -- blame it on a singer/songwriter intent on proving his worth -- but it still showcases a nimble, versatile singer/songwriter deserving of greater acclaim than he has received.

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