Editor's Rating

"I could be a millionaire if I had the money"

8

Twee long before twee became cool, Clifford T. Ward’s career has seemingly faded from the collective memory just like the photo adorning Home Thoughts album cover. Okay, so maybe some people with longer memories remember him for “Gaye”, but in terms of his wider career, he’s been in desperate need of reassessment for decades now.

With his sensitive voice, gentle arrangements and deft way with a chorus, there’s every reason to think that with careful marketing, Ward could have been a far bigger star than he was. Then again, you get the feeling that, regardless of the commercial awards, Ward probably would have shied away from the fame game even if he had been offered it. As it was he recorded a series of seven albums through the 70s, which in retrospect are a sort of proto-chamber pop, and the second of these, 1973’s Home Thoughts, very much caches him on the upswing in terms of his creativity.

It opens with “Gaye”, effectively Ward’s big hit. A pretty ballad, it borders on easy listening and is a far cry from the hairy progressive rock or commercial glam of the era. It sets out Ward’s modus operandi effectively – downbeat singer-songwriter fare, topped off by his gentle, soothing voice. There’s nothing to get you on your feet and the blood pumping, instead this is restful, almost meditative, music.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Ward lacked pop-smarts, because he certainly had those in abundance, as evidenced in the accessibility of Home Thoughts as an album, particularly on tracks like “Wherewithal”, “The Dubious Circus Company” and “Time, the Magician”. A personal favourite of mine, on “Time, the Magician” Ward effectively accepts the inevitability of the raging process and just gets on with living life – an almost radical thought at a time when the majority of pop music celebrated youth and virility. Then again, Ward was a musician with an odd gift for foresight, so it’s no surprise that he was comfortable playing the long game. With Ward’s pretty and clever songs augmented by swelling arrangements, Home Thoughts is a mature pop album before such things became popular.

Away from the more ‘pop’ numbers, Home Thoughts effectively demonstrates Clifford T. Ward’s range. “Nightingale” is haunting, “Where’s it Going to End?” is almost dramatic, and closer “Crisis” is an oddly upbeat toe-tapper that leaves you on a high, despite its lyrical content.

Home Thoughts elegant centrepiece though is “Home Thoughts From Abroad”, a heartbreaking letter home to a partner from a musician who deeply regrets his decision to spend his life on the road away from a simpler domestic life and the woman he loves. For me personally, it was the first Clifford T. Ward song I ever heard, and its a rare thing that any musician ever manages to sound this honest and emotionally effecting, and While Ward recorded a series of fine albums and recorded many superb songs, “Home Thoughts From Abroad” is his crowning achievement. Of course, in typical Clifford T. Ward, it was decided that it would best serve him as a B-side to “Gaye”, so it took years for it to reach a wider audience.

Twee long before twee became cool, Clifford T. Ward’s career has seemingly faded from the collective memory just like the photo adorning Home Thoughts album cover. Okay, so maybe some people with longer memories remember him for “Gaye”, but in terms of his wider career, he’s been in desperate need of reassessment for decades now.

With his sensitive voice, gentle arrangements and deft way with a chorus, there’s every reason to think that with careful marketing, Ward could have been a far bigger star than he was. Then again, you get the feeling that, regardless of the commercial awards, Ward probably would have shied away from the fame game even if he had been offered it. As it was he recorded a series of seven albums through the 70s, which in retrospect are a sort of proto-chamber pop, and the second of these, 1973’s Home Thoughts, very much caches him on the upswing in terms of his creativity.

It opens with “Gaye”, effectively Ward’s big hit. A pretty ballad, it borders on easy listening and is a far cry from the hairy progressive rock or commercial glam of the era. It sets out Ward’s modus operandi effectively – downbeat singer-songwriter fare, topped off by his gentle, soothing voice. There’s nothing to get you on your feet and the blood pumping, instead this is restful, almost meditative, music.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Ward lacked pop-smarts, because he certainly had those in abundance, as evidenced in the accessibility of Home Thoughts as an album, particularly on tracks like “Wherewithal”, “The Dubious Circus Company” and “Time, the Magician”. A personal favourite of mine, on “Time, the Magician” Ward effectively accepts the inevitability of the raging process and just gets on with living life – an almost radical thought at a time when the majority of pop music celebrated youth and virility. Then again, Ward was a musician with an odd gift for foresight, so it’s no surprise that he was comfortable playing the long game. With Ward’s pretty and clever songs augmented by swelling arrangements, Home Thoughts is a mature pop album before such things became popular.

Away from the more ‘pop’ numbers, Home Thoughts effectively demonstrates Clifford T. Ward’s range. “Nightingale” is haunting, “Where’s it Going to End?” is almost dramatic, and closer “Crisis” is an oddly upbeat toe-tapper that leaves you on a high, despite its lyrical content.

Home Thoughts elegant centrepiece though is “Home Thoughts From Abroad”, a heartbreaking letter home to a partner from a musician who deeply regrets his decision to spend his life on the road away from a simpler domestic life and the woman he loves. For me personally, it was the first Clifford T. Ward song I ever heard, and its a rare thing that any musician ever manages to sound this honest and emotionally effecting, and While Ward recorded a series of fine albums and recorded many superb songs, “Home Thoughts From Abroad” is his crowning achievement. Of course, in typical Clifford T. Ward, it was decided that it would best serve him as a B-side to “Gaye”, so it took years for it to reach a wider audience.

That’s the thing with Clifford T. Ward, for all his abilities as a songwriter, he never quite got the commercial exposure his talent deserved. With his dislike of touring and his soft sound, Ward was never destined for the big time, but instead to record gentle, soothing, almost comfy-slipper music.

Ward would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 80s, and sadly his career has never properly reassessed, even when he passed away in 2001. Listening back now, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what his legacy is. Perhaps it is most tempting to see him as something of distant godfather to the twee-folk pop movement, but whatever the case, someone somewhere needs to set about on a substantial reissue campaign in order for Ward to get the belated plaudits he always deserved. With his dislike of touring and his soft sound, Ward was never destined for the big time, but instead to record gentle, soothing, almost comfy-slipper music.

Ward would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 80s, and sadly his career has never properly reassessed, even when he passed away in 2001. Listening back now, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what his legacy is. Perhaps it is most tempting to see him as something of distant godfather to the twee-folk pop movement, but whatever the case, someone somewhere needs to set about on a substantial reissue campaign in order for Ward to get the belated plaudits he always deserved.