Music

David Clayton-Thomas Has the Urge to 'Say Somethin''

Photo: Courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

David Clayton-Thomas' Say Somethin' probably won't sell 10 million copies like the eponymous Blood, Sweat & Tears album did, but it's a rich and valuable record in its own right.

Say Somethin'
David-Clayton-Thomas

Linus Records

20 March 2020

David Clayton-Thomas was once a big star as the lead singer with a distinctively strong voice of Blood, Sweat & Tears during the band's heyday 50 years ago. That's him belting out "What goes up / must come down" on their big hit "Spinning Wheel", a song he wrote. Since then, his career has had its fill of ups and downs. The man who once packed large arenas and sold-out shows, including Woodstock 1969, has since played at rural county fairs and small town 4th of July celebrations for free. That's nothing to be ashamed of. What's popular is no indication of talent. It is the rare act that can stay on top for decades. His willingness to keep on performing reveals his troubadour spirit. He still has something to say, as he puts it on his latest solo release, Say Somethin'.

Clayton-Thomas has a big, burly voice (the closest modern equivalent would be Rag 'n' Bone Man). He began as a blues singer, and that influence on his music is still abundantly clear, which maybe is another way of saying he sings with feeling. Even with he's addressing topical concerns such as gun violence, climate change, immigration, and American politics (he is a Canadian), his intellectual musings are couched with strong emotions.

Although Clayton-Thomas is in his late 70s, he still remembers his roots. On the autobiographical "Bushwah", he tells the tale of being in jail as a young man and discovering his musical talents. The song builds to a climax as we learn of this moment's pivotal importance in his life. He then launches into an informed critique of the modern judicial system from his view as a formerly incarcerated citizen on "The System". Clayton-Thomas takes things personally and trusts his instincts to understand what is right and what is wrong—and there is much he sees in need of improvement. Or as he puts in the titles of other tracks on the album, we are on "The Precipice" and living in a "The Circus"—with President Trump as ringmaster.

Clayton-Thomas expresses his admiration for the previous president on the gospel dirge "Dear Mr. Obama", but tempers his praise with an understanding of the problems of poverty and such that plague the nation. Clayton-Thomas also tells the story of another leader, "King Midas", the moral of which is "the best things in life a free". What good is a golden wife and golden friends who can't talk or feel? That may be an allegory for Donald Trump but also works as a story on its own merits.

Clayton-Thomas doesn't mince words on "Never Again" as he addresses gun violence in the schools and the power of the National Rifle Association. "Weapons that were made for war / don't belong in my hometown," he defiantly croons, "enough is enough". His view of America as "A Bright and Shining City" has been dimmed by its current policies, he sings on a cut with that title.

The songs are bolstered by a strong group of players, including Lou Pomanti on keyboards, Eric St. Laurent on guitars, Marc Rogers on bass, and Davide Di Renzo on drums. They match his tone and intonations when he sings loudly, but more importantly, understand when to lay back when Clayton-Thomas lowers the volume to express his thoughts passionately.

Say Somethin' probably won't sell 10 million copies as the eponymous Blood, Sweat & Tears album did, but it's a rich and valuable record in its own right. Times have changed, but happily, Clayton-Thomas is still making music worth hearing.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.