Hung up on love songs
Of all the compilation formats, one of the most hackneyed is the “love songs” concept. A few years after the Beatles broke up, one of the many reissues aimed to cannibalize their sales success was such a package — a rather redundant theme since most of what the Beatles recorded could fit in that box. Type in “Love Songs” in the Amazon search button and you get 5,360 hits, including the expected (Barry Manilow, Elton John) and the unlikely (The Marshall Tucker Band, Warren Zevon.)
Warren Zevon’s Reconsider Me: The Love Songs from 2006 does do a good job collecting his ballads (“Searching for a Heart,” “Accidentally, Like a Martyr”), though it leaves off twisted love songs like “For My Next Trick I’ll Need a Volunteer” — the kind of darkly humorous material his fans adored.
Here a few new entries in the “Love Songs” gambit for this Valentine’s season:
DEAN MARTIN Essential Love Songs (Capitol)
My memory of Dino is as the lush who hosted all those half-baked celebrity roasts. But in his heyday, Martin had a velvety voice quite suited to crooning pop fare like “Everybody Loves Somebody,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You.” And who isn’t a sucker for a song that says love is like “a big pizza pie.” Hey, “That’s Amoré.” This 16-song collection culled from the ’50s and early ’60s includes lyrics.
RAY CHARLES Ray Charles Sings for Lovers (Concord)
Ray Charles had a knack for taking the most syrupy of songs — “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “You Are My Sunshine” — and injecting them with a heavy dose of soul. And he could take an overplayed Beatles song such as George Harrison’s “Something” and make it his own. Among the best moments on this 16-track set are the duets with Betty Carter on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”
ISAAC HAYES Isaac Hayes Sings for Lovers (Stax)
Years before Teddy Pendergrass was cooing to the ladies and being thanked by having them toss their undergarments onstage, Issac Hayes was steering them to the bedroom with “Let’s Don’t Ever Blow Our Thing” and “Make a Little Love to Me.” Like Ray Charles, Hayes was drawn to pop songwriters like Burt Bacharach and Hal David (“The Look of Love,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You”) and David Gates (“Baby, I’m-A-Want You”). In case you’re wondering, the “Theme from Shaft” did not make the cut for this collection.