Candi Staton: Unstoppable review – a soul survivor to cherish

(Beracah/Thirty Tigers)

With the death of Aretha Franklin, it’s time to cherish the soul legends that are still around – particularly those, like Candi Staton, who sound as energised as ever. Mark Nevers returns as her producer, adding a rhythm section made up of Staton’s sons Marcel and Marcus, and they smartly avoid twee retro backings. Opener Confidence struts with digital precision rather than analogue murk, as Staton channels James Brown’s surprised funk hollers, while ballad highlight Love Is You beautifully uses a delay effect on an electric organ. Staton is known for brilliant covers such as Stand By Your Man and In the Ghetto, but the ones she chooses here are rendered a little unadventurously: Patti Smith’s People Have the Power is a gospel-funk stomp. (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding is a campfire strum-along, where the backing vocalists do the heavy lifting. But given that this is the woman who could turn a song for a straight-to-video documentary about weight loss – You Got the Love – into a blockbuster anthem for the unbending power of faith, Staton’s singing constantly lifts even the middling material. The micro-nuances in her voice mean she has great sidelines in withering disparagement and punchy self-belief, but no one sings romantic failure better than her – with just three or four words of crumpled, trembling delivery, she essays not just the sadness of heartbreak, but the disappointment, indignation and self-loathing, too. And there’s two flavours of political righteousness on Revolution of Change and Stand Up, with Staton delivering typically universal wisdom: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

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