- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

It's February, and with love in the air, those opportunistic decision-makers in the music business have raided the vaults again to cobble together a dizzying collection of Valentine's Day specials.
There's yet another Tom Jones compilation, "Greatest Love Songs" (Hip O Records). Repackaged Roy Orbison, "The Very Best of Love" (Madacy). Recycled George Jones, "Love Songs" (Sony Legacy). Heck, we apparently miss Marvin Gaye so much that there are two Valentine's Day offerings from Washington's most famous soul export, "Love Songs" (Sony Legacy) and "Greatest Duets: A Love Songs Collection" (Universal). What's going on with that?
If it were "Marvin Gaye Sings Love Duets With George Jones," maybe I would put the Whitman's Sampler back on the shelf and go with the CD for Valentine's Day instead. Otherwise, I already have most of this stuff on tape, vinyl or compact disc.
Take, for example, Hi Records' pointless repackaging of Al Green's greatest hits, "The Love Songs Collection," released just last month. This 17-track compilation is virtually identical to the 1975 "Greatest Hits" package, especially because recently added bonus tracks have fattened up the 1975 album to 15 songs from the original 11 hits.
Where the two collections diverge, the recent release suffers by comparison. The new collection discards the incomparable "Tired of Being Alone." One of Mr. Green's best, this early hit helped create the template of gritty staccato horns melded to sensuously smooth vocals, stuttering yips and sexy moans that defined the reverend's best work.
Instead, on the new release, we get the tiki-bar stylings of "I'm Glad You're Mine," a nugget culled from 1972's "I'm Still in Love With You," and "Put It on Paper," a modern-day duet with someone named Ann Nesby that Mr. Green released last year. Interesting offerings, but I'll take "Tired," thank you very much.
Besides, the old 1975 album has that great cover photo of Mr. Green without his shirt, doing that too-cool kung-fu thing with his hands.
Both packages feature the great Al Green "commitment" songs. Ladies, how many times have you complained about men who don't call? The reverend calls and he wants you to "Call Me." Him. You know what I mean.
He's not afraid to propose: "Let's Get Married." If you hit a rough patch, his solution is "Let's Stay Together."
If the hits whet your appetite for Mr. Green's Memphis-flavored soul, the timing's perfect. Most of Mr. Green's classic albums from the early 1970s, including "Let's Stay Together," have been remastered and are being rereleased this month with bonus tracks.
Here are a few other artists who, like the reverend, know how to get to the heart of the matter:
Alternative roots-blues-country queen Lucinda Williams got a lot of attention (and deservedly so) a couple of years ago with the Grammy-winning "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," but an earlier offering, the eponymously titled "Lucinda Williams," is even better.
The 1988 Chameleon Records release includes her longing "Passionate Kisses," which became a hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter; the erotically charged "Like a Rose"; and the desperate "Changed the Locks," later recorded by
Tom Petty. When the Louisiana native sings her plaintive Valentine to times gone by, "Crescent City," you can't help but feel a homesick twinge for Mandeville even if you wouldn't know a crawdad from a crab cake.
She has a new release due out in April, but this 15-year-old gem is well worth tracking down.
Prince has been one of the most prolific and successful artists of the past 25 years, but his most romantic album, "Under a Cherry Moon," was a commercial flop. Dragged down by its unfortunate connection to a nearly unwatchable romantic comedy starring Prince, this 1986 soundtrack is one of the Minneapolis dynamo's most accomplished collections of songs (which, when you consider "1999," "Sign o' the Times," and "Purple Rain," is saying quite a lot).
Whereas previous Prince albums reveled in roiling, muscular guitar work married to impeccable funk and pop melodies, "Cherry Moon" showcases a jazzier sensibility, with intricate horn arrangements, delicate keyboards and a relaxed, sultry vocal delivery from the purple one. The soundtrack hits a groove, though, on side two, with the infectious "Kiss" (forever associated with pretty woman Julia Roberts in the bathtub) and the overlooked, speaker-blowing jam "Mountains."
Director Cameron Crowe is one of the most sentimental filmmakers around, responsible for some of the best movie lines of the past couple of decades (Jerry Maguire's "You had me at hello"). No wonder he's such a sucker for the Paul McCartney

tunes he has included on soundtracks for his films, including "Maguire" and, more recently, "Vanilla Sky." The "Maguire" soundtrack includes one of the former Beatle's most delicate and gorgeous melodies, "Singalong Junk," from the lushly romantic "McCartney," released in 1970 on Apple Records.
Mr. McCartney's first solo record, an open love letter to wife Linda McCartney, sparkles with the simple acoustic pleasures of instrumentals like "Singalong" and "Valentine Day"; the rich, beautiful melody of the overlooked "Every Night"; and the album's piano-driven centerpiece, the now-classic "Maybe I'm Amazed" a grown-up's love song, to be sure.
Speaking of grown-ups, what collection of Valentine's Day gems would possibly be complete without a diamond or two from Francis Albert Sinatra? Warner Records picked over the chairman's catalog last year for "Greatest Love Songs," a 22-track compilation released just a few weeks before, you guessed it, Valentine's Day. In addition to the obvious "My Funny Valentine," the record includes Mr. Sinatra's classic renditions of "Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)" and "Night and Day," among others.
Sinatra purists would argue that the singer's concept albums of the 1950s, "Wee Small Hours," and "Come Dance With Me," are vastly superior to a compilation especially one like "Greatest," which includes an electronically created "duet" with Celine Dion. "Come Dance," conversely, is clunker-free.
This 1959 Capitol Records release dominated the charts for two years, and for good reason. From the electrifying title track to the unforgettable "Something's Gotta Give," this album features one classic after another, all delivered with a swinging uptempo backbeat, the wildest horn section that ever played behind ol' blue eyes and, of course, the man himself. Just listen to the phrasing and the sing-song, just-behind-the-beat delivery of the lyrics on "Just in Time." This album swings.

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