If My Friends Could See Me Now

by: Linda Clifford

For Linda Clifford's second album, producers Gil Askey and Curtis Mayfield wisely left behind the overabundance of cover tunes that weighted down her debut outing to concentrate on original material. The result is If My Friends Could See Me Now, the opus that earned Clifford her disco diva status. The first side of the album represents her finest recorded work. It starts with a bang via the title track, which transforms this classic show tune from Sweet Charity into a driving slice of orchestrated disco. It provides an ideal vehicle for Clifford's brassy vocal persona and is further sweetened by expert call and response support from the Jones Girls on backup vocals. From there, the album downshifts into a gentler mood with "You Are, You Are," a Curtis Mayfield song that combines a lovely mid-tempo groove with some spacy synthesizer effects and romantic-devotion lyrics that are given emotional heft by Clifford's vocal conviction. The coup de grâce is provided by "Runaway Love," a funky, Latin-accented dressing down of an unfaithful lover that intersperses its silky rhythms with spoken word bits in a Millie Jackson-styled feminist vein. Unfortunately, the second side doesn't hold up quite as well. The flamenco-flavored "Broadway Gypsy Lady" gets the toes tapping, but the other tunes feel like filler: they are solidly crafted and professionally performed, but lack the distinctive lyrical and musical hooks that made the first side such a treat. Despite this unevenness, If My Friends Could See Me Now is listenable all the way through and remains Clifford's shining hour on record. ~ Donald A. Guarisco

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