It’s rather unusual to see Barry White reissued on vinyl – gorgeous 180 gram virgin vinyl at that – given the collector’s market that mostly buys music on this format. Is White still enough of a cult figure to appeal to the people who are willing to pay the sort of price that new LPs now retail for (especially as you imagine second hand copies of this record might not be that scarce)? I’m certainly no expert on the matter, and I imagine Audio Fidelity have done their homework. I’d certainly like this to be a success – not only is it a gorgeous package, coming in a gatefold sleeve so thick it barely folds together, in a numbered edition, but it’s also an impressive recording from an artist who is not really taken all that seriously.
Originally released in 1974, Can’t Get Enough was Barry White’s only US number one, and also scored him two chart toppers – Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe in America and You’re My First, My Last, My Everything in the UK. Unsurprisingly, these are two of the definitive White songs, pretty much encapsulating everything that his sound was about – lush, grandiose and hysterically romantic numbers that helped earn him the nickname ‘the walrus of love’. These are songs of seduction, but not by some insincere lothario, but instead by a passionate, devoted romantic. They feel like Mills and Boon novels turned into songs, and it’s hardly a surprise that most – if not all – of White’s fan base were women of a certain age, for whom his size hardly mattered in comparison to the gushing romance of the music. Sitting at home with husbands they’d grown bored with, it’s no wonder that middle aged women the world over saw Barry White as the ultimate Casanova.
The album as a whole is, some might argue, a bit of a concept piece. It opens and closes with the instrumental Mellow Mood, very much in the tradition of White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra and acting as the intro and outro to the five songs on the record, all but one of which feature the word ‘love’ in the title.
The music follows an established formula. White was usually seen as a soul singer, but he’s not really – or, more accurately, he’s not singing soul music. Instead, the songs here hover somewhere between soul, proto-disco and, most importantly, lounge music. White is, effectively, easy listening, his songs rarely having any level of soul energy – You’re My First, My Last, My Everything is as fast as this record gets. But that’s fine, because this sort of thing definitely works best as easy listening – the sort of record you slip on at a dinner party, or when you’ve taken that hot date home and are looking to seal the deal. To be honest, if you take a girl home and slip this record on, and then still don’t get to at least swap spit, then it’s probably never going to happen (if you can stretch to a log fire and a bear skin rug – and, admittedly, a time machine back to the mid Seventies – then all the better).
The Barry White formula stretches to spoken word intros and / or mid-sections in pretty much every song, White’s husky voice murmuring words of love and devotion before the emotion overtakes him and he bursts into song. The songs themselves might be slow and seductive, but White certainly puts heart and soul into it – he really loves you, girl, and you’d better believe it! What’s more, he isn’t going to rush – I Can’t Believe You Love Me is over ten minutes long, and nothing apart from Mellow Mood is under four minutes.
Outside the two hits, the songs are less memorable, but certainly not filler – they might not stand up as well as individual numbers, but within the album as a whole, they play their part in creating the overall seductive mood. This is a record designed to be played all the way through – you’ll only break from the romance to flip sides and fix another cocktail (though you’d better not hang around, given that the whole LP is only 31 minutes long!).
It’s easy to laugh at White’s hyper-sexuality and his lurve machine stylings, but that would be unfair. This is a perfectly crafted album that exists for a specific purpose and a specific audience, and it achieves it aims flawlessly. Given how hip vinyl is these days, who is to say that this reissue isn’t perfectly timed? Take that hipster chick back to your swinging bachelor pad, pour a martini, flick on the lava lamp and slip this on – how could she possibly resist?