Wednesday, May 23, 2018


I'm on the fence when it comes to Barry White, and always have been. I admire his achievements more than his music, and I can take only small doses. I think that's because it's so syrupy, it's like dessert, best to only have a small portion. So listening through this very lengthy, 21-track compilation is definitely a sugar rush.

But yeah, no shortage of accomplishments in his career, especially in the '70's where this collection is focused. If he didn't outright invent disco, he certainly raised one of its pillars with his smooth, dance-friendly hits in 1973 such as Never, Never Gonna Give You Up. Then came his huge smash instrumental at the end of that year, Love's Theme, produced for his outfit Love Unlimited Orchestra. These were tunes with a relentless beat, but still relaxed, with soaring strings over top. And when White added his atypical vocals, that bass-y, seductive croon, the last element came into place. These songs were one big ad for s-e-x, at least coached in the acceptable language of the day. There was only one theme, told in different words with each new single: You're The First, The Last, My Everything, Can't Get Enough Of Your Love. Babe, and my favourite title, It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me.

From '73 to '78 White landed 11 Top 40 hits, and made period comebacks over the years, as he became a camp icon, even appearing as himself on The Simpsons several times. While we might have snickered at him, he sold over one hundred million records, almost all of them as the songwriter, artist and producer, making him filthy rich. Having found a formula White rarely strayed from it, although for those interested in what he sounded like in a different groove, there's his cover of Billy Joel's Just The Way You Are included. It's fun hearing what he sounded like having to be more of a singer on that track, not doing his sexy spoken-word bits or crooning lover's words in the mic. He does a good job, and he might have lengthen his star days if he had stretched more along the way into that kind of material. I don't think he's one of the great soul singers, writers or producers, but he hit at just the right time, and it's fun to slot a cut or two of his into your soul mixtape.

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