Clifford T. Ward

The Anthology

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This 25-song collection is difficult to evaluate, for the critic if not for the listener, because the sources of the material are so indefinite. It's not a best-of anthology, but an anthology of, apparently, previously unreleased material, with one probable exception. It's necessary to beat around the bush because the liner notes do too, not giving any recording dates, noting that logistical problems prevent the compilation from being representative Ward best-of, and inferring (but not quite spelling out) that this Anthology is taken from unissued tapes. Anyway, an educated guess would place most if not all of this material from the 1970s and 1980s, when Ward was an active recording artist, getting one hit in his native U.K. with the 1973 Top Ten single "Gaye" (and remaining totally unknown in the U.S.). It's not fair, perhaps, to judge the man on the basis of these tracks rather than his proper discography. But what's here is the work of an average, unexceptional singer/songwriter, a bit quirkier than many other run-of-the-mill '70s singer/songwriters, but not one who's likely to expand his small cult. It's mild, easygoing, gently philosophical folk-rock/pop, pleasant but bland for the most part. It's versatile, yes, and sometimes derivative. "All That Glitters Is Not Gold" and "Love in Song" sound like Buddy Holly reinvented as a mellow '70s singer/songwriter, "Jenny" sounds pretty close to the Troggs' "Love Is All Around," "Escalator" is suburban Todd Rundgren, "Attraction" is summery bossa nova, and "Thinking of Something to Do" has the Paul McCartney bounce that infected much lighthearted British pop of the late '60s and early '70s. Others are a bit in the early Elton John mold. The sentimental ballad "Gaye" is here too, and this Yankee will guess that it's not the original hit recording, in the absence of any documentation in support of its source in the package. Fans of the artist might well find this heretical, but actually the most exciting item is "It's Such a Pity," apparently taken from a 1966 single by his band the Secrets, which is actually a pretty good if slightly outdated (by late 1966) punchy, Merseybeat-ish rocker.

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