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Randy Crawford – Can’t Stand the Pain

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A lot of pop songs are sprints of one sort or another, racing to the finish line within three and half minutes –  but it’s good to have a marathon now and again isn’t it? I don’t mean a ballad or a twenty-six-and-a-half minute jazz odyssey when I say this, I mean something that paces itself, spending its energy in bursts and taking just the right amount of time to get the task done. Someone who is particularly good at this is Miss Randy Crawford.

It constantly bemuses me that Randy Crawford hasn’t had a bigger career: however you want to describe it – soul, pop, or r&b,  she’s blessed with one of the greatest voices ever heard, with a delicacy, power and control that is entirely unique. And she has made some seriously fantastic records – aside from Street Life, her uncredited breakthrough with The Crusaders, there’s You Might Need Somebody, One Day I’ll Fly Away, Nightline, Cajun Moon and (adopts TV advert voice) many, many more. Yet she’s never had a solo hit on the Billboard Hot 100. She always fared much better in the UK, where her popularity granted her the dubious honour of a Gary Wilmot impersonation – but even here we only granted her sporadic success. It’s one of the Great Mysteries of pop, never to be solved.

1986 saw Randy teaming up with producer Reggie Lucas for the album Abstract Emotions (the one which yielded another big UK hit, Almaz). Lucas was best known for his work on two seminal songs – Stephanie Mills’ Never Knew Love Like This Before and Madonna‘s Borderline – both perfect and using very similar production tricks (it’s one of the few times Madonna has oozed warmth, and is therefore to be cherished). Randy’s own Desire from the album forms a trilogy with its predecessors, which is a nice way of saying it’s practically identical. But Can’t Stand the Pain was something else altogether.

 
There’s a single edit which clocks in at 4:05, but the proper album version, stretching its legs at 6:02, is really the one to go for. Can’t Stand the Pain trots along at a gorgeous, stately pace, with Randy surrounded by piano, guitar and a glorious wash of synthesisers easing in and out like a tide. The lyrics are pretty bleak: “How can love that felt so sweet / Give my heart such misery? / I can’t stand the pain.” Yet the delivery suggest the exact opposite: this is a woman growing in strength as the song progesses, and by the time Randy is giving it the full Crawford towards the end you’re in no doubt that she’s going to be just fine. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you deliver heartbreak without making you want to slit your wrists.

Entered chart: did not chart

Who could sing this today and have a hit? Our very own Paloma Faith could totally handle this.

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