The most seductive album of the 1970s has lost none of its romantic intensity.
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, through his solo work and his Love Unlimited project, was about – lush, grandiose and hysterically romantic numbers that helped earn him the nickname ‘the walrus of love’. These are songs of seduction, not by some insincere and sleazy 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 in the 1970s consisted of 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 housewives the world over saw Barry White as the ultimate Casanova.
This album 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 features 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 and funky 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 bearskin rug – and, admittedly, a time machine back to the mid-Seventies – then all the better). These tracks are so insistently seductive, playing them today could almost be seen as sexual harassment.
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 – gentle arousal exploding into full-on fucking, you might say. 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. Perhaps missing a trick, the songs don’t all run into each other to create a seamless flow, but that’s just about the only thing that hasn’t been designed for seduction.
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 Seventies 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 its aims flawlessly. It’s an album that never really belonged to any time or place beyond the Barry White universe, and so it sounds as modern and impressive now as it did when first released.
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