A Blues for the New World
On A Blues for the New World, David Clayton-Thomas sounds as good – or better – than he did in his hit-maker heyday as lead singer of Blood, Sweat and Tears. His voice remains as powerful as ever and his superb studio band retains the familiar horns-and-rhythm section sound he mined so well with BS&T – even elevating the jazz-meets-blues style to a new level with excellent arrangements. But, more than anything else, it is David’s substantial songwriting that raises this album to a level well beyond most contemporary blues releases. These are songs of substance with much to say about our world and the human condition.
“Politics,” for example, a condemnation of corrupt and out-of-touch politicians, might be topical at almost any time, but it seems particularly relevant to hear it this week with the Canadian news dominated by the allegedly fraudulent expenses claims of certain senators, the alleged illegal drug use of the mayor of Toronto, and the systemic corruption coming to light in Quebec.
Among the other highlights are “Holy Moses,” based on the biblical legend of the Israelites’ Exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt which is given a potent gospel arrangement featuring Rob Gusevs on a swirling Hammond B3 and vocal support from Sharon Riley’s Faith Chorale; “Calico Girl,” which recalls a relationship with an elusive woman that could just as well be a friend or daughter as a lover, features Roly Platt’s bluesy harmonica on top of the other horns as it builds from a downhome blues into a full-throttle arrangement; “A Blues for the World,” a slow, contemplative blues which offers both analysis of the sad state of today’s world and hope for the future; and “Common Ground,” an a cappella arrangement featuring the vocal group Cadence, which offers a father’s advice to a grown child ready to take on the world.
Perhaps the most powerful song on the album is “The Lights of Broadway,” an ode to the resilience of New York City and to human freedom following 9/11. Sharon Riley’s Faith Chorale helps raise the song into a powerful anthem.