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Chicago's own Linda Clifford had her breakout disco hit with a cover of "If My Friends Could See Me Now," originally from the musical Sweet Charity. I know for some (myself included) the thought of bringing musical theatre to the dancefloor just screams "CAMP." So perhaps this song might be a bit campy for some, but in my opinion it's nothing short of a disco tour-de-force. Excellent, layered production with strings, soft synths, lively vocals and just a tremendous buildup. In a way this song couldn't have been more appropriate for Ms. Clifford; the singles off this album pretty much cemented a prominent place for her in dance music and paved the way for several more disco hits. Prior to this, she had released some singles on the Polydor and Paramount labels before signing to Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label. Her initial singles on the Curtom label were classy, soulful R&B as was much of her first album (1977's "Linda") but none quite hit the way this did.
The biggest hit off this album would be "Runaway Love," which would reach not only the top of the disco charts, but the top of the R&B charts as well. "Runaway Love" was a move away from the style of the title track and into a more solid groove, highlighted by a sassy, slightly Millie Jackson-esque spoken word section towards the end. In this song Ms. Linda goes on telling off her broke, jive-talkin', cheating no-good dog of a man to run out of her life once and for all 'cause she "ain't got no heartaches to spare.".. What can I say? Once again, I just can't resist a sassy disco diva.. The Jim Burgess 12" mix brings it all the way up to 9.45 with a slightly extended spoken portion and a generally more layered mix. Some of those background instruments get brought up front a little more on the 12", particularly some of that awesome percussion two-thirds of the way through. To me this is one of those songs that really captured her voice at it's best. While Linda was never a multi-octave wailer, she seemed to make the most out of what she had. At her best, her voice was like on this track, a flawless blend of sass, soul and class all in one.
Another highlight of the album is her version of Curtis Mayfield's "You Are, You Are," produced by Mayfield himself. For sure one of my favourites by Curtis Mayfield just because it's one of those songs that seems to radiate pure love and happiness from every note and lyric. That said, for me Linda's version is the definitive one. Her interpretation just has a certain grace and sincerity to it. That's not to say that Mayfield's own version isn't sincere, but Linda's vocal just seems to resonate more strongly.
The album ends on a high note with "Gypsy Lady," another great disco track. Produced by Motown veteran Gil Askey and Curtis Mayfield, it's another song about hitting the big time and jet-setting the world like an international gypsy. Sort of a sequel, at least in theme, to "If My Friends Could See Me Now." It's not as all-out as the title track, but it's got a great prominent popping bassline and a dramatic Spanish flamenco flavour in those horns.
The bulk of the album (aside from "You Are, You Are" and "Gypsy Lady") was produced by Gil Askey, who would also go on to produce her follow-up album "Let Me Be Your Woman" (1979, Curtom), on which they would kick up the disco quotient considerably. This album though, as a whole, is just one of those excellent, cohesive records that's completely listenable from beginning to end. Personally, I don't think Linda has released a bad album, but among all of them, this has to be one of her best.
A little bit of trivia: The backup vocals on this album are by none other than The Jones Girls, who, in the following year, would have a hit of their own..
If anyone wants to have this album on CD, I'd recommend tracking down the 2-in-1 album sets that were released by Sequel Records in 1999 as opposed to the recent stand-alone reissue of this album. All of Linda's Curtom albums were released on these double-sets so they're well worth tracking down if you like her stuff. Unfortunately they've gone out of print, but copies still show up on Amazon marketplace, eBay and GEMM from time to time..
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LINDA CLIFFORD @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW LP (REVIEW) @ ALLMUSIC.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW 12" @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - RUNAWAY LOVE 12" @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - LINDA/IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW 2 CD @ AMAZON.COM
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW CD (2005 REISSUE) @ AMAZON.CO.UK
LINDA CLIFFORD - IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW CD (2005 REISSUE) @ AMAZON.COM
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, PAST REISSUES