A continuing series exhuming, exploring and exalting the “lost” treasures scattered in the sands of music history. Because it’s never too late.
Candie Payne – I Wish I Could Have Loved You More
Duke Ellington claimed luck was being in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing in front of the right people. If that’s true Candie Payne should have been lucky enough to hit it big in the UK at least.. Payne arrived on the Liverpool scene via the tried and true art/fashion school route early in the 00’s, fronting a pair of hip local bands and collaborating with Simon Dine of Noonday Underground. Her brothers Sean and Howie had already built up family cred, playing in the Zutons and the Stands respectively. Her first two singles “By Tomorrow” and “Take Me” hit the scene just as Amy Winehouse was breaking big and a year before Adele and Duffy would even show up and her third single “One More Chance” was produced by Mark Ronson, so she was playing with a full hand from jump street. Her art house take on the Swinging London sound was bolstered by her innate sense of style and Carnaby Street good looks. Seriously, it was all there. Payne should have been freaking huge.
Why it didn’t happen is impossible to say. Maybe Back to Black just sucked too much air out of the scene. Truth is, Adele’s first album 19 didn’t sell squat in the US. She didn’t get any serious play in the States until Amy was incapacitated and spiraling. The more telegenic [but less talented] Duffy did a little better, but opted for a more mainstream sound that turned down the soul and cranked up the blonde…which is why nobody talks about her anymore. Maybe Payne was just too busy being an Artist and didn’t worry about huge; people tend to build the best castles on empty beaches. For all the what-ifs and why-nots, I Wish I Could Have Loved You More is a beauty.
The Title track forces the album open with a artful blast of feedback before settling into a John Barry groove setting the stage for everything that comes next. Payne’s vocal calls out ruefully from amidst sizzling fuzz tone guitars and clattering keyboard and rhythm samples that pull the song from the archival into the now. Her old collaborator Dine produced and co-wrote all 11 tracks with Payne, and their mutual intimacy with the material pays dividends. It’s easy to believe the music and lyrics were designed to fit like key in lock, which they do. A mournful trumpet sample leads into the acidic waltz of “Why Should I Settle For You” while “Take Me” rolls with a dolly bird swing that wouldn’t feel out of place in one of those 60s brit-spy films that come on at 2 am. Speaking of spies, “In The Morning” sounds like the James Bond theme Portishead forgot to write, but with Payne’s warmer voice to soothe the brittle, electric rhythms behind her.
Payne has no issue wearing her heart or her inspirations on her sleeve as she strolls through the shadows and spaces of I Wish I Could Have Loved You More. “A Different You” feels like a Lulu B-side that some smart DJ would flip into a hit. She drifts like hookah smoke over the Beat-Club charge and sampled brass splashes of “By Tomorrow,” sounding for all the world like a page from Cilla Black’s book, and maybe that’s why this wasn’t the breakout hit that “Back to Black,” “Rockferry” or even “21” was; Payne understands and appreciates her influences so well, she sees no reason to pretend to rise above them. Between her 60s girl-singer ethic [her pet peeve is “over-singing”] and Dine’s sample-savvy, trip-hop revivalism [who ever thought trip hop would fall far enough from favor to warrant a revival?], nobody felt the need to “invent” anything for this record. Nothing was broken, so they didn’t bother fixing it. Instead Payne spreads her wings and soars through Dine’s sunny Spector-esque crescendos on “One More Chance” and shimmies one step ahead of the sneering organ following her through [yet another] kiss off on “Hey Goodbye” The one thing Payne adds that those 60s girls didn’t usually have is a sense of agency and authority. No matter how suave that bloke is, if he thinks he’s getting one over on her, then too bad…for him. It’s going to take more than a High Street suit and the right car to get to her. Payne saves her best, most elegant goodbye for last in “Turn Back Now” – a stately farewell that the Everlys or Lulu could have crushed out of the park, with its last mile bass burnished by swelling harp and strings. Payne stands in the middle of her imaginary spotlight and croons with her arms straight at her sides, her voice as clear as her decision to end it with, no matter how many nights missing Him keeps her up. A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.
And in case you were wondering, she can do it live too:
I Wish I Could Have Loved You More received glowing reviews in the UK music press [who are never too busy to crush a record they don’t like], and Payne herself was hailed as a comer more than once…And then it just didn’t happen. Fortunately, she’s kept busy with various side gigs, guest spots and one offs…And in the hipter 2010’s it just a matter of time before a film soundtrack or an ad agency finds one of these songs and Candie Payne blows up the way she should. In the mean time, she’s one of those particularly sweet secrets that obsessives and crate diggers have all to themselves. And you know how we love that.
NEXT: Some’a You People Just About Missed It….