David Clayton-Thomas - Say Somethin'
by Kevin Wierzbicki
Clayton-Thomas had great success with Blood Sweat & Tears in the late '60s as he put his powerful voice to work on big hits like "And When I Die," the oft-covered "Spinning Wheel" and "You Made Me So Very Happy." While many fans may have forgotten about him, the star has continued to put out solo albums, and Say Somethin' is his fifth release in the last 20-or-so years. Clayton-Thomas was born in England but his family moved to Canada when he was just four-years-old. As a teen David ran away, seeking an escape from his abusive father, and eventually landed at Burwash Correctional Centre in Ontario because of trouble he got into living on the street. You might think that Clayton-Thomas would not be giving this time in his life much thought now, all these decades later, but Say Somethin' opens with "Burwash," a recounting of his time there with potent lyrics like "I was run through the system like a side of meat/In some judicial abattoir." Delivered as a sort of talking blues and in a voice now a bit grizzled, the song could very well scare young potential offenders straight. Following song "The System" finishes the thoughts begun in "Burwash" as it laments that, as far as justice goes, things have not yet changed for the better when it comes to the youths of today who have fallen on the wrong side of the law and who need compassionate rehabilitation, not jail bars. The gospel-tinged "Dear Mr. Obama" sings the praises of the former U.S. president and takes, without naming names, a shot at the current U.S. president; the fable of "King Midas" as told here is clearly also a political statement, but with its catchy sing-along chorus the listener doesn't have to hear it that way. "Never Again" is upbeat and soulful and performed in a style that recalls BS&T, as is "The Precipice" where some sharp-eared listeners will hear hints of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" in the song's intro. With the opening line "the president paid off a porn star," "The Circus," complete with calliope-like keyboard, is another shot at some in the U.S. government. David's feelings about his own country can be found in the sedate closing track "God's Country," a love song to Canada and its natural beauty. As the album title indicates, Clayton-Thomas has something to say here, and he says it quite eloquently.