Last week, on August 3, while I was vacationing in Florida, the long awaited press release about Clay’s much anticipated third album was issued. A Thousand Different Ways will drop on September 19.
As is tradition in the Clay Nation, there were those who were immediately disappointed – What? No Back for More? What? Ten cover songs? What? Dolly Parton?!?
On some boards, those who expressed discontent were immediately looked upon with scorn and derision for some reason, as if their comments might infect others like a plague. Then you have the uber-fangirly fans who would buy Clay singing "the phone book” or a Chinese menu or whatever; which causes some to roll glazed over eyes so far back in their head as to see behind them. And then there were those who were somewhat stoic, allowing they would wait until they actually heard the CD, then make a fully informed decision.
Then we have the “insiders,” with their affirmations dispensed by some mysterious entities somewhere in the “industry.” Hey, I think it's great, sprinkling their good news like so much fairy dust over the heads of the worried and the anxious. Some people seem to resent those “in the know;” but we do have choices; we can soak it all up like sunshine or just scroll on by. It’s all good to me.
Some 15 months after reports of a conclave of 50 songwriters (aggregated by Jaymes Foster on behalf of Clay) met in Nashville to hash out some good new songs for him, some fans are disappointed to see only four new songs on the CD track listing. It does lead one to wonder what type of communication took place, that none of those outstanding writers could create an album’s worth of songs with which Clay could connect. Or maybe they did, and we'll hear those results another time.
On the other hand, I would much rather hear Clay sing good covers than mediocre new songs. Not that the all the covers on the new CD would be on my own top ten favorite cover song list for Clay to interpret. That list would be more likely to contain such songs as If You Really Love Me by Stevie Wonder, She's Gone by Hall & Oates, Best of My Love by the Eagles, or More than Words by Extreme. He could still sing them in concert...I wouldn't mind a JBT Ver2.0 - except all 70s and 80s and some of those new songs thrown in for good measure.
In speaking to the concept that there are all kinds of love, songs like Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away by Stevie Wonder, and When the Children Cry by White Lion would have worked as well.
I have always loved Without You, and own both the Badfinger as well as the superior Harry Nilsson version. On vinyl no less. In fact, it could have been my theme song for a few years. That song was made for Clay, and his somewhat restrained and subtle rendering (with those low notes!) is a thing of beauty.
I also find interesting Clay’s statement about the songs on the CD reflecting “all different kinds of love.” It’s endearing to me that he made the effort to create a work that all his fans could appreciate, enjoy and relate to. A (real) twelve year old hasn’t experienced romantic love, and some adult fans have surely moved on into cynical romantic territory.
Clay had a hand in choosing the songs, as well as even earning a writing credit on one of them (Lonely No More.) From his past statements regarding songwriting, I assume he actually helped write the song. I hope that was an enlightening experience for him. It's not always easy to lay bare your soul to the world.
Based on his own words in interviews past, this album is not what he started out wanting. Whatever happened to change that, which is not my business as a fan, it is now a CD of big power pop ballads from the 70s and 80s, and if the trend doesn’t burn out in six weeks, it should ride the retro wave to success, if not radio play. The fans may control the success, but RCA controls radio play.
The songs on the CD are fine by me. In fact, they all bring back so many memories! I am very intrigued by some of the choices, such as Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, and Broken Wings. Clay said he wanted a more "upbeat" tone to this album, but a little angst thrown into the mix is more realistic.
In my teen years, I was all about the angst, and many of these songs remind me of that time in my life. Don't get me wrong - it was wonderful - the passion, the agony - every little thing that happened then was a major upheaval in my life. I miss that, sort of.
What I am most looking forward to, is how these songs fit into the soundtrack of my life right now, as opposed to how they fit when they were first released. Will it all come rushing back? Friendship, first love, passion, unrequited love, heartbreak, pain, loss…. Is it all still inside me?
I’ll soon find out. And I'm right here waiting.