It’s been a day since the worldwide release of Darlene Love’s new album and I am now able to publish a review of it, a little earlier than I had anticipated.
The review comes courtesy of fellow Spector-fan and Cue Castanets reader Bob Condren who has graciously offered to don the ‘guest blogger’ cap and offer another perspective on here. Which is something I’m very pleased with as I’m of the opinion that the blog will only benefit from other fans having their say. Remember, my vision for Cue Castanets is for it to be a kind of online fanzine devoted to all things Spector & the Wall of Sound. So if you have a good idea for an article, an interview, a review or something else you’d like to pitch, do contact me. You can reach me at cuecastanets(((@))))gmail.com and I’d love to hear from you.
I’d like to thank Bob for the fine review which is perfectly in line with my own initial reaction to the album; great to hear Darlene again; some of the new songs are stellar, some are pretty good, a few are so-so with the River Deep cover being pretty pointless and lame in my opinion. With this, I’ll let Bob talk us through the album and give his verdict.
Review: Introducing Darlene Love
**** (4 stars out of 6)
Darlene Love’s new release, “Introducing Darlene Love,” may sound like an unusual title for an artist who has performed on so many legendary projects in the past 50 years or so. But for all her notoriety, including her work with Phil Spector, Elvis Presley, movies, TV and Broadway, she has never had a hit album. Steve Van Zandt has recruited an all-star list of veteran A-listers, including Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Jimmy Webb to try to turn that around.
Van Zandt has arranged and produced the songs filling them to the brim with horns, strings and a myriad of background singers. To most singers this would be overwhelming but not for Love… her voice is strong enough to break down the walls of Jericho!
The first song, “Among The Believers,” written by Van Zandt, initially sounds like a late 70s disco song, not unlike Donna Summer, with Asbury Jukes style horns. The next song is the Elvis Costello penned “Forbidden Nights” that also has an Asbury Park sound, though this time with a late 50s/early 60s rock ‘n roll feel.
A few more songs in, there is another Elvis Costello song called “Still Too Soon to Know.” This is a duet with her old friend Bill Medley, and it sounds as if it would work well on the Broadway stage. They are quite charming together. The Jimmy Webb tune, “Who Under Heaven,” is curiously similar at times to his classic, “MacArthur Park.” This may not be a coincidence as Van Zandt has been quoted as, somewhat jokingly, I think, asking Webb for another “MacArthur Park” for the project.
Van Zandt’s partner in rock ‘n roll crime, Bruce Springsteen, writes two songs for the project. The first one, “Night Closing In” is a full-blown homage to The Wall of Sound. It starts with a Clarence Clemons style sax solo (played by Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons) and builds with strings, Hal Blaine style drums, glockenspiel and I think, I may also hear some castanets in the mix. It is a great tune with haunting lyrics and if it had been written back in 1962, may have been a Philles hit, who knows? Springsteen’s other contribution “Just Another Lonely Mile,” while ambitious, is not as successful as “Night Closing In.”
Van Zandt’s fellow disc jockey on Sirius Radio’s Underground Garage, Michael Des Barres, wrote the powerhouse rocker, “Painkiller” with Paul III, and Love belts it out of the park. Love also does a great job with Van Zandt’s signature style soul ballad, “Last Time.” It is followed by a remake of “River Deep, Mountain High.” Love’s powerful vocal is a good fit but Van Zandt’s production does not have the unique quality of Phil Spector’s version with Tina Turner.
After 12 songs dealing with affairs of the heart, the final two are in the Gospel mode, something that Love, whose father was a preacher, is familiar with. The penultimate song “Marvelous” is a simmering, slow tempo, powerhouse. The clarity, power and honesty of Love’s voice is at its peak on this one. On a roll, the final song, “Jesus Is the Rock (That Keeps Me Rollin”) is is an up-tempo number, that just about levitates the whole production.
If you’re a fan of the Jersey Shore sound, Spectoresque productions, or more to the point, a fan of Darlene Love, there is something for you on “Introducing Darlene Love.” 4 stars out of 6.