Candi Staton, "It's Time to Be Free" (Beracah Records)
Candi Staton blends gospel themes and messages of redemption and caution with dance music, funk and soul on "It's Time to Be Free," revisiting earlier hits and perhaps creating new ones.
Staton, whose career since the early 1950s has ranged from gospel to R&B to disco and back, takes a spiritual approach on the songs, near all her own, with the mostly upbeat arrangements buffering any excesses.
Based on the first couple of tracks — "Shout Out, Hallelujah" and "You Got the Love," a new version of an old hit which had already undergone several transformations — you may get the impression that Staton is solely targeting the dance floor, but the mechanical beats hardly show up the rest of the way.
Instead, while the lyrics reflect higher inspirations and aspirations, the music stays simple and sweet, with piano, horns, soulful backing vocals and plenty of bass slaps and plucks.
The finger-wagging "What You Don't Master, Will Master You" is as much plead as reprimand while "Put It Back" is about retribution the devil must pay. "I Love You More Today" could be an ode to a supportive spouse or friend as much as a hymn.
Four slower songs close out the album, somewhat tilting the rhythmic balance. "Behind the Veil of Silence" tackles domestic abuse, the five-times married Staton's testimony made all the more credible by her own experiences in rough relationships.
Best known for "Young Hearts Run Free," Staton recently toured Europe celebrating the 40th anniversary of that disco anthem. If the hits aren't as obvious on "It's Time to Be Free," there's still plenty of quality. On balance, a worthy effort.