Book of Love, dance mixes spotlighted
Record companies lately have been forcing me to relive one of my favorite periods in music – the '80s.
Recently, I reviewed a new compilation from The Psychedelic Furs, one of my favorite ground-breaking bands of the period. This week, I've been listening to Book of Love's new I Touch Roses – The Best of Book of Love. This one's a special treat, because while many people remember the Furs for their bona fide breakthrough hits "Pretty in Pink" and "Heartbreak Beat," the slick synth act Book of Love barely nicked the Top 100 singles charts once, with "Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls" in 1988. (They did, however, score some college and club play with "I Touch Roses," "Boy," "Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes)," "Alice Everday" and a dance-ready remake of the instrumental "The Exorcist" theme "Tubular Bells.")
During the course of their nine-year run from 1984 to 1993, Book of Love turned out four albums of pristine pop, led by main songwriter/keyboardist Ted Ottaviano and singer Susan Ottaviano (strangely enough, the two are unrelated). Keyboardist Lauren Roselli and percussionist Jade Lee filled out the band (and occasionally co-wrote material with Ottaviano). Every Book of Love song was a sweetly sung bit of electronic cotton candy – it's a crime the band never achieved the kind of Top 40 breakthrough that other sweetly tuned synth bands of the time did, such as Erasure and OMD.
But with The Best of Book of Love, the band gets another shot at reaching an audience with its simple, sensual sound. The 16-track disc includes all of the songs mentioned above, as well as a modern ambient remix of its first single, "Boy," and three new songs. The new tracks, recorded last year, fit in perfectly next to the nostalgic syncopations of its youth. If you like sugary synth-pop, but have never heard Book of Love, you must buy this disc.
If you'd like to turn your living room into a modern dance club, The Right Stuff label has released two discs of a new series called American DJ. 01 Los Angeles features a "continuous mix by Swedish Egil" of songs by Way Out West, Datar, BT, Paul Van Dyk, and the recent Delerium/Sarah McLachlan hit "Silence." The other disc, 02 Dallas, features a "continuous mix by DJ Merritt" of songs from Detroit Grand Pu Bahs, Green Velvet, CRW, Red Shift, Bedrock and more. Turn up the volume, close your eyes and you'll feel like you're dancing in Chicago's Smart Bar at 1 a.m.
Rhino Records has unleashed two new girl group compilations. Girl Group Greats features "Heatwave" from Martha & The Vandellas, "The Loco-Motion" from Little Eva, "It's My Party" from Lesley Gore, "Leader of the Pack" from The Shangri-Las, "He's So Fine" from The Chiffons, "Please Mr. Postman" from The Marvelettes and 14 more classic girl pop from the first half of the '60s. More Girl Group Greats continues with 20 more songs from the same period, including "One Fine Day" from The Chiffons, "Soldier Boy" from The Shirelles, "Baby Love" from The Supremes," "You Don't Own Me," from Lesley Gore, "People Say" from The Dixie Cups and many more.
Rhino also revisits the classic days of the "Cuban invasion" of the '50s and '60s with Mas Mambo Mania! The 18-song disc (which also has a couple of songs from the '80s) includes tracks from Celiz Cruz, Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, Joe Cuba Sextette and many more. A companion disc, El Son No Ha Muerto, The Best of Cuban Son, includes songs from Sierra Maestra, Son 14, Nico Saquito, Celina Gonzalez and more. Listening to these discs is like a horn and reverb-happy trip to the salsa and rhumba reeling past. Arriba!