Saturday, 19 January 2019

Love Unlimited Orchestra - Rhapsody In White (1974)

  

Released January 1974

After two successful albums in 1973's "I've Got So Much To Give" and "Stone 'Gon", Barry White oversaw this largely instrumental and highly influential album, adding vocals on a few tracks as well. It is pretty much like a Barry White album anyway, given that his actual albums contained lengthy instrumental passages. The album introduced string orchestrated, sweeping disco rhythms with that trademark "click-click" sort of guitar sound several years before disco became a genre. It was a sound that would see a million glitter balls attached to ceilings. Lush strings, staccato guitars and sublime production influenced so many producers and artists, becoming the sound of the mid-late seventies as much as any rock riffs, progressive experimentation or punk calls to arms. Listen to things like Michael Jackson's 1979 "Off The Wall" and you can detect the influence of this. In many ways it was way ahead of its time. It was similar to the albums from MFSB in Philadelphia from the same period, primarily instrumental but very far-reaching in their influence.

TRACK LISTING

1. Barry's Theme
2. Rhapsody In White
3. Midnight And You
4. I Feel Love Coming On
5. Baby Blues
6. Don't Take It Away From Me
7. What A Groove
8. Love's Theme

"Barry's Theme" launches the album with that guitar sound behind some rhythmic percussion before the trademark sound I was talking about kicks in. The strings float all over it and it has a superb atmosphere. The same applies to the beautiful "Rhapsody In White" with its wonderful bass line and addictive guitar sounds. The percussion is excellent throughout as well. Barry arrives on "Midnight And You" with a few growled vocals over a catchy funky melody. "I Feel Love Coming On" has a spoken vocal intro before its intoxicating beat takes over. There is some excellent bass/drum interplay halfway through which return at intervals throughout the track.

Barry adds his gruff, spoken vocal talents to "Baby Blues" in which he tells us, in his inimitable style about his lover's "baby blue panties...". Although it brings a chuckle when you listen to it now, it was actually quite risqué for 1973-74. It is very much a "lay down on that rug, baby..." song not only in White's vocal, but in the romantic arrangements. "Don't Take It Away From Me" is another of those "chicka-chicka" grandly melodic disco smoochers. "What A Groove" has a solid, muscular, funky groove, full of bass and uplifting piano parts. It is a track, though, where you feel a full vocal would make it even better. The album ends with "Love's Theme" which is now instantly recognisable with its strings and that distinctive wah-wah quacking guitar sound. There is a really addictive bass and guitar passage near the end.

It is easy to overlook this as "just an instrumental album", but it is more than that. It is very enjoyable firstly, the sound is superb and it is actually an important, ground-breaking release.

B+

No comments:

Post a Comment