If love means never having to say you're sorry, then I'm allfor love. What a great deal! With Valentine's Day upon us, sales of householdappliances are bound to shoot through the roof. What says "I Love You Honey"more than a new food processor? Or how about a half-priced snow shovel? Or ashiny new vacuum cleaner? Spring for a little air freshener and all should beright in your world.
But not everyone is so gifted with the art of romance. Somepeople need help in this category. And while everyone knows nothing gets twopeople more in the mood for love than the collected works of Arnold "Twelve Tone" Schoenberg, Scratch Acidand Throbbing Gristle, sometimes it's better to take a more traditionalapproach.
I know once you spy this list you'll wonder where's DavidByrne, Geddy Lee and Jimmy "Metallica" Hetfield--those smooth singers speak inthe universal language of love--but I decided to find 25 singers who if youlace your drink with enough Diazepam can really help you make it through thelong night ahead. R&B singers have a natural advantage here, since themusic's natural rhythm lends itself to smooth sailing and those voices! AsMarvin Gaye once said, Let's Get it ON!
Shuffle the order anyway you prefer.Frank Sinatra: Any list where Frank Sinatra comesin at #25 screams of some sort of mental confusion. He's a dead ringer foranyone's top ten. But considering the way things are presented visually here atthe site, I wanted Mr. Sinatra to stand out and be at the top, so I opted toput him here. He doesn't belong in the middle of the pack.
24) Nat King Cole: You could say I chose Mr. Cole"for sentimental reasons." Get it? Get it? Oh, geez, half of the world barelyknows him as the father of Natalie, a talented singer with her owndistinguished career, never mind knowing one of his songs. Everybody, "Ramblin'Rose!" (and not the MC5 tune, guys).Dusty Springfield:Yes, Dusty is one of those legends who it feels like if you don't includeher on the list, you're not doing your job. And I would never want to beaccused of being asleep at the switch. I'm already going to hear it for leavingoff Diamanda Galas!
22) Tom Jones: Women throw their underwear and theirhotel room keys up to this man when he's on stage. What the men don't know, theladies in the blue hair understand? He makes me want to jump off a cliff, butVan Morrison swears by him. Sometimes you defer to your elders.Van Morrison: He gave "Have I Told You Lately" toRod Stewart. Or Rod took it from him and had a huge hit. Either way, we'rehoping ol' grumpy pants got paid for once. No one actually knows what Van issinging about half the time and when they do figure it out, he denies it. Is"Madame George" a tune about a drag queen or not? Does it matter? I prefer the"hail, sleet and snow" that follows. And for pure romance, try a shot of "CrazyLove" off of Moondance. And by all means, purchase his new super-greatlive album Astral Weeks Live At The HollywoodBowl. It will make you a better person.
20) Elvis Presley: Who can argue with Elvis Presley?"Anything That's A Part Of You" wins my vote for one of his more obscureballads. But the man exuded sex and romance on his rockers! "Tryin' To Get ToYou," "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," "Mystery Train," these may not be thetraditional fare to woo a young lady, but they sure sound excited.Lucinda Williams: Lucinda can coo like nobodyelse. Sometimes she sounds like she has a bad back and is so loaded up onpainkillers that she can barely get out of bed, but the rest of the time shesounds like a woman on a mission. And if part of that mission is to seduce you,well, then that's fine by her. Especially if you're a bass player, apparently.
18) Prince: Prince has never been the most subtlewriter. When he writes about sex, he writes about sex--explicitly. Which maynot be the best tact when you're trying to seduce someone. Construction workerswho grab their crotch do not have a greater success rate than men who comebearing flowers and chocolate. At least according to recent surveys.Rod Stewart: That sandpaper growl of his justcalls out for the women to gather 'round. "Some Guys Have All The Luck," surelyyou jest, Rod. YOU have all the luck. We've seen your stack of wives and girlfriends.And we've seen you in those leopard print spandex and we just have to wonderhow you pulled it off.
16) Joni Mitchell: "And the more he talked to me, youknow the more he reached me" she sings on "Court And Spark" and shesounds like she's been very moved by the experience. Nothing screams"I'm sensitive, dammit," more than owning an early '70s Joni Mitchell album.Take this one to the bank.Francoise Hardy: Get the albums she sings inFrench, otherwise it sounds like she's reading off of cue cards--and besides,French, like German, is the language of love. It always sounds so soothing.Even if you never don a beret or read poetry or sip expensive coffee, youshould indulge in a Francoise Hardy experience. Consider it your cultural duty.
14) Marianne Faithfull: You've got two choices withMarianne. You can choose her early work where she sounds like a young virginalwaif, or you can slap on her later work from the mid-'70s on where her voice istransformed into a Pall-Mall-ed croak. "Why'd Ya Do It"" off Broken Englishisn't a suggested starting point, but her catalog is stacked with songs whereshe really expresses a great amount of concern for your well-being.Donna Summer: Everyone should have "Love To LoveYou Baby" on the stereo at some point, if only to boost up the declining birthrate in this country. If I had to blame one reason for a lack of proliferationin this country, I'd point it at RUSH. Those damned Canadians practically actas an aural condom. No one gets anywhere with their music on. It's a provenfact. "Cygnus X-1" prevents pregnancy.
12) Chrissie Hynde: Chrissie did it with leather. Shecould've used fluffy pillows, but that wasn't her style. She was a rocker atheart and while "I'll Stand By You" sounds like a self-empowerment anthem,something like "Precious," "Kid," "Mystery Achievement," "Birds Of Paradise"and "Talk Of The Town" use an unnerving punch and vibrato to make their point.And I am one not to argue with her.Leonard Cohen: There aren't many men over 70 whocan still convince young women to do more than spoon feed them strainedcarrots. But Leonard is a man of wealth and taste. Well, he was until his moneypeople pulled a Bernie Madoff and walked off with his cash. He's beenrebuilding his nest egg. And when I went online to see about tickets learned Imight be able to score one for around $350. For some people, there is nofinancial crisis.
10) Teddy Pendergrass: Harold Melvin and the BlueNotes had to have a bad feeling about their obvious star. They knew he wouldleave for a solo career. Just run the numbers. If you don't have a managerpointing out the obvious benefits of a solo career and name recognition, firethat man! Why do you think Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Oprah, Suze Orman andStephen Colbert name their shows after themselves? It's not just because theylike to hear their names. Well, that's part of it.Curtis Mayfield: If you could sing that high andthat smooth, you would. Even when Curtis is singing about social issues, hesounds like he's doing so from the bedroom with some very soft, silky sheetscalling you to attention.
8) Otis Redding: Otis's voice breaks in all the rightplaces. And while he sounds his best when he sounds down and out, it's thatelement of sympathy that makes everyone want to befriend him and manage hislife for him. Knowing that he died so young only makes things even worse. If hewere alive today, imagine how many Facebook friends he would have!Isaac Hayes: When Isaac says "I don't mean to takeup too much of your time" and then starts talking about his childhood, you havea right to rethink how much time you're willing to commit to this gentleman.His cover of "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" almost feels as if it was recordedin real time. By the time he gets there, you've arrived as well--and that'staking the traffic into account.
6) Nina Simone: She's influenced generations--and if Iwasn't just so damned traditional sometimes, I'd put the new kids on the list,but you know it's hard to make a spot for Alicia Keys when you have to firstmake room for a lady who taught everyone else how it's done. And if recordedhistory went back even further--say, another century or so--we'd have a whole'nother level of people to deal with.Al Green: Angelic voices are just that. They don'tsound like they came from earth. Al Green doesn't only hit notes that othersonly dream about, he slides into them in ways other people are clearlyincapable of.
4) Billie Holiday: Even near the end of her life whenher voice was going, going , gone, Holidaycould still bring on the heartbreak--sometimes even more so since she wasn'tjust singing it, she was living it.Smokey Robinson: Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinsonone of America'sgreatest poets and I interpret that to mean Smokey's ability to deliver histruth with that voice. He takes simple ideas and concepts and complicates themwith a sound that divides the heavens and turns water into salt-water, orsomething like that.
2) Marvin Gaye: "Let's Get It On" gets right to thepoint. Proving that sometimes getting to the point is the whole point. But becareful out there. Not everyone is as smooth as Marvin Gaye. Most of us comeoff a bit more rough. Like I don't think the guy in AC/DC could pull this offwith the same effect. He might arm-wrestle a few women into the tent, but Gayewould never be put to such tests.Barry White: White sang about love like a guy wholived for nothing else. Surely, he wasn't interested in working for a living.Or if he was going to work, he was going to do so only in the pursuit of women.I guess, it worked. "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Baby," "Never, Never GonnaGive You Up" and "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby" aren't justwonderful songs due to their swell use of the comma, but also the kinds ofsongs that would sound comfortable being blasted out the windows of acustomized van. And if the van is a-rockin', Barry White is truly the man atwork!