Claudja – I Will Stand
From Jimi Bruce
Guide Rating –
A legendary original who never sits for long
I was thrilled to hear a name I hadn’t heard in along time announced on the air and should have known she wasn’t going the way many of the “disco era” have – silently into the so-called “mature” disco night. “Yes!” I thought to myself, there IS hope for those of us thought of as left behind by disco haters!” Claudja Barry will always be remembered by me personally. I know what the day looked like (sunny), what positivity I was doing (warming and winding down from a Saturday workout), and the excitement I felt when I heard him announce and play the new song, “I Will Stand” [Donnajean Records]. Suddenly my good times and the ole (school) days flooded back to mind – a needed vacation from the stresses of today. Now if you don’t know who she is, then pull up your chair to your gel screen, my reader, and let me drop some science on you about her as I know it and as she told it to me recently.
Claudja Barry became a star, slightly under the radar before every female singer who made the scene wanted to be tapped, dubbed, smoothed, rubbed, or pronounced a “diva”; as if entitled just because they have a record out in the market.
A classically-trained vocalist, who has traveled the world, Claudja is longevity personified, and has taken care of herself and preserved her “instrument,” as she calls her voice. “I was one of the persons who took my job very seriously, and I still do. I think if you love what you’re doing, which I do, it takes a while to find the right project to come back with (it’s almost like six different tunes on this),so I’m happy I took care of myself.”I adore track three, the Sugardip radio edit by Ean Sugarman, which most resembles her signature sound through the years. “It’s also very sort of two-thousand and six” she reminds, “an updated version of the ‘Sweet Dynamite sound.” This is the version I recommend, radio stations. In da club, DJs will have fun with remixed versions on track two from Gadbois, number four from the original songwriters, and track six, an expansion of my favorite Sugardip on the disc.Even Claudja’s hair is the same on the CD cover of “I Will Stand” as it is on the album jacket of 1978’s “Sweet Dynamite,” style and all, which is a really good thing that surprised her when I pointed it out during our talk. “That IS a good thing” she said “It sort of ties-in to her new beginning but almost from the same!”
Her first major label success was on the mostly Latin-based and now almost-forgotten Salsoul Records & Tapes (back when cassette tapes were new), and I just assumed that she was singing with the big Salsoul Orchestra led by Vince Montana. But no, she says “All of my early things were done in Europe and Salsoul picked-up the product and put it out in the states/that’s how it worked…” Well we just learned something together, my reader, and yes I know I’m kind of slow sometimes – duh… “Sweet Dynamite” was the blast album that they put out, and the title track, complete with a Tom Moulton mix, a staple back then, got her started and was played to big hit status by New York City’s trendsetting Program Director Frankie Crocker and WBLS-FM, and that hit-laden album spread through the clubs across the land. “I must tell you something, when I think about the body of work that I’ve done, when you think about ‘Love for the Sake of Love’ and Jermaine Monteil who redid it [sampled]; “Down and Counting was such a great tune, “Tripping on the Moon,” one of my absolute favorites; you just think that it’s hard to sort of top those I absolutely love! But “I Will Stand” is so different from any of those things, [and] so 2006.
It’s a tune that is going to say something; not just happy happy, trippy trippy, it’s a song that is making a statement that is valid for young people today” she said. The DJ in me has a respectful love/hate thing with artists who evolve with the times – DJs always want it to be party time and don’t want to grow-up. Yet I love the reinventing of oneself, and Claudja sings and speaks to that end magnificently. “It can be party time, but the feeling today you [still] have to be so focused/you have to realize how privileged we are in this country” she reminds. In a short talk, we rapped about many things.On “Down and Counting” (1986), She comments “It was a number one Dance record, unfortunately I got caught right in the middle of when Sony was coming to buy CBS [parent of the Epic label she was on] and everything was in an uproar, so Down and Counting got counted and…” or discounted slightly more than had there been label stability back then.When I asked her what her most favorite song is that she doesn’t mind performing ad nauseam, she replied “Work Me Over,” because of the range vocally, and because it’s a really happy song; it’s kind of sexy, as well as ‘Boogie Woogie Dancin’ Shoes’.”
I always have to ask those I review if they can relate an amusing anecdote about the production or a performance during their career. Claudja replied, “I did an amazing performance at the Tokyo Music festival in 1980, I was on the bill with the Commodores, The Stylistics, Dionne Warwick, and all kinds of wonderful artists. It was the first time I ever went out to sing with a live band, and by that I mean a seventy-piece orchestra on a stage like Carnegie Hall or Radio City. Of course, I’m thinking like ‘who am I? If I can just get out and through it I’ll be happy’; and I came away with three prizes, best composed song and best costume. I came away with the silver prize and Dionne Warwick got the first prize, so I was thinking, that is not too bad, I just was not expecting it.” Okay, but how about amusing Claudja? “I [invite] people to get on stage sometimes and dare them to ‘take it off,’ and when they actually take [their clothes] off, I have to stop them before it gets too embarrassing for them…” She eggs them on until the last piece is almost gone when she has to pull them back from the brink indeed – especially when the videotape is rolling.
She took me aboard the time machine when recounting her most memorable gig at the late ’70s New York City haunt The Saint. It was a New Year’s Eve party back in the days with Cerrone, and “Trippin’ On The Moon” was her hot hit at that point. This evokes serious scandalous reminiscence for my puppy years in radio.“‘I Will Stand’ is for anybody who really has strong beliefs and realized that nobody’s gonna do it for them and they’ve got to do it for themselves; and when you come upon situations where you feel powerless, you dig your heels in and say, no – I will stand because I am. It’s not just a woman’s song, it’s for anybody who is today feeling that they need to be strong and have power.” There I was thinking this was another Gaynor-type survivor song – not! The message is be who you are and stand-up for yourself by cultivating your own identity: “I’m ready to move forward/because I deserve nothing less/here I stand my own wo-man, don’t need your hand to be who I am…”
This record speaks to individuality in spirit and deed by way of cultivating one’s own identity and I always second those emotions! Written by her longtime friends Tony Moran and Warren Rigg, along with the two imaginative remixers, Claudja feels fortunate and proud to have released “this piece of product (which she has had for several years), and we’re all hoping the resonance from the public will be positive” she says.
Well, judging from comments I have read online, the buzz already is for this Montego Bay-born by way of Toronto and Hackensack songstress. She is even contemplating collaborating with Jamaican music producer Fata in the near future on a project that will revisit one of her signature hits.Our talk was part badinage, part philosophical, and all the way informative. For those who desire more, I recommend www.claudjabarry.com, her full-service site. She is “looking forward to the next set of excitements that are going to come to me” and is planning to do a tour. As comebacks go, this one is right on point.