LOVE AND MONEY-STRANGE KIND OF LOVE.
LOVE AND MONEY-STRANGE KIND OF LOVE.
The band that I am going to write about, Love and Money, are one of Scotland’s finest bands of the past thirty years. In an eight year recording career from 1986-1994, Love and Money recorded just four albums, All You Need Is Love in Money in 1986, Strange Kind of Love in 1988, Dogs In Traffic in 1991 and their final album Littledeath in 1994. The album I will review in this article, is their second album, Strange Kind of Love.
Love and Money were formed in 1985. Three of Love and Money’s members, had previously played together in a another band, Friends Again. James Grant vocalist and guitarist, keyboard player Paul McGeechan and drummer Stuart Kerr had all been members of Friends Again. In the next nine years, Love and Money would go on record four albums and twelve singles. Although Love and Money’s music was well received by music critics, their music was not as commercially successful, as other Scottish bands who were around at that time. During this period, Scotland was blessed with some great bands, including, the Blue Nile, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Orange Juice and Simple Minds. Unfortunately, although well regarded within the music industry, Love and Money did not prove to be as popular with the record buying public.
Strange Kind of Love has eleven tracks on it, and when you listen to this album, you will be struck by how polished the sound is. It is as if Love and Money were trying to achieve an almost, sonic perfection, by producing an album with a flawless sound. Interestingly, one of Love and Money’s big influences were Steely Dan, and this was what they aimed to achieve, especially on their Gaucho album. The Steely Dan influence is even greater on this album, for two reasons. Firstly, Gary Katz, Steely Dan’s producer, produced Strange Kind of Love. Secondly, Steely Dan drummer, Jeff Porcaro played drums on this album. Porcaro had played on Steely Dan’s albums Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied. I am sure that when you listen to this album, you too, will hear a Steely Dan influence on Strange Kind of Love.
The first track on Strange Kind of Love is Halleluiah Man. This is a great track to start the album and is Love and Money at their finest. On this track Grant’s voice is strong, the guitar solo is one of the highlights of the track and in the background there is a funky bass solo. The whole sound on this track is strong, there is a polished feel to the track. When you listen to to the lyrics they have both a surreal quality and also have a political message to them. Grant sings doing anything “to bring the government down”. Interestingly, this track was recorded when Scotland was going through a turbulent time politically. This is an outstanding track, and a strong start to the album.
Shape of Things To Come is the next track on the album. Here, Grant sings the song slowly, in contrast to the opening track Halleluiah Man. Grant’s vocal is strong and clear, and the band accompany him in such a way that highlights his strong vocal. The band produce a strong and polished performance. Listening to this track, it is hard to believe that this is only Love and Money’s second album. This song’s lyrics have a quality that make you wonder what it is he is singing about. He sings “is this the shape of things to come”, and throughout the song, but by the end of the song, the listener is no wiser. That does not make this a bad song, quite the opposite, this is an intriguing song, that makes the listener think.
On Strange Kind of Love, this is classic Love and Money. This song has all the features I would expect from Love and Money at their best. The song has quality and thematic lyrics, features a polished performance from the band and sees Grant give a strong vocal performance throughout the track. Strange Kind of Love was one of the singles taken from this album. Sadly, it failed to break into the top forty in the UK singles chart.
The next track, Axis of Love is a slightly quicker tempo. Here the song begins with a guitar solo, then Grant’s vocal begins. On this track, Grant uses a wider vocal range. To some extent, this works, as it helps to emphasize the lyrics, although when Grant almost shouts some of the lyrics, this sounds somewhat forced. In this instance, wonder if he is out-with his vocal range’s comfort zone. Throughout the track, the band produce a polished performance, and the standard of musicianship is of a high standard. However, this track for me, lacks something. It is a pleasant enough song, but maybe the production by Gary Katz is too slick, or maybe Grant’s Grant’s vocal is not up to his usual standard.
Jocelyn Square was the third single taken from Strange Kind of Love. On this track, what you will hear is Love and Money the tight funk band. This track features lyrics that paint a picture, close your eyes and you will be able to visualize what Grant is singing about. As well as featuring some great lyrics, the song demonstrates a band who are at the top of their game. Throughout the track the standard of musicianship is of the highest standard. The guitar solo and the funky bass lines are two of the three contributory factors on what makes this such a strong track. The third factor is Grant’s voice. He delivers the song with feeling, and has reserved a stellar performance for this track. In my opinion, Halleluiah Man is the strongest track on the album, Jocelyn Square must be a close second.
On Walk the Last Mile Love and Money take the tempo down. This is a slower song. The lyrics are some of the strongest on this album. Again, they tell a story, they have a strong narrative, and there is sadness within the lyrics, when Grant sings “I never knew I could feel so old”. Grant sings this song slowly, and like a good actor, uses his voice for dramatic effect. Throughout the track, the band play behind the vocal, and this emphasizes the Grant’s delivery of some lovely lyrics. Walk the Last Mile is one of the strongest tracks on this album, and is one of my favorite Love and Money tracks.
Razorsedge has a funky start. Bass and drum start the track, and Grant changes his vocal style and the tempo and is much more upbeat. Grant almost raps the lyrics, which are not the best lyrics on the album. In fact, this is far from the best song on the album, the sound has not stood the test of time well. This sounds very much like a song from the 1980’s. It has a throwaway quality to it. There is no depth to the lyrics, and it is almost a poor man’s funk track. The song reminds me of another Scottish band around at the time Hipsway, who were a good, though short-lived band. Their album Hipsway is one that has some good tracks on it, and is worth listening to.
Inflammable sees Love and Money return to form. Here, Grant sings the song well, the tempo is slightly slower, and the lyrics feature the quality that was lacking in the previous track Razorsedge. On Inflammable, the band play gently, behind Grant, allowing his vocal to take centre-stage. This track has a jazzy feel and influence, and demonstrates how Love and Money were a band that could play different styles of music, and do so well.
Up Escalator finds Love and Money attempting another funky track. This time, however, they succeed. This song sees the band all contributing strong performances. Grant is able to match the band’s performance, giving a strong, vocal performance. This song features a wonderful harmonica solo, and a real funky bass solo. Although, in my opinion, this is not the style of music Love and Money were suited to, they have delivered a strong track, and one that deserves its place on this album.
Avalanche sees the musical style change once again. This is a song that features strong lyrics, that when you listen to them have depth and intelligence. Many people fail to listen to the lyrics to songs, and by doing so, miss out. When you listen carefully to this song the lyrics are tinged with sadness and regret, over what might have been. Not only are the lyrics and Grant’s vocal quality, so is the band’s performance. They really do this song justice, producing a performance that brings out the best in the song. To me, this is one of the album’s best songs.
The final song on Strange Kind of Love is Scapegoat. This song has a funky feel to it. Love and Money were a band who were always said to have a funk influence to their music. That is apparent here, and this is actually a good song. It demonstrates how diverse the type of music Love and Money were able to produce throughout their career. James Grant and the rest of the band really have reserved a sterling performance for this, the final track on the album. Incidentally, on this track, there is a similarity in the sound, to that of Hue and Cry, another Scottish band who were around at that time, and who were a talented band.
Strange Kind of Love is, in my opinion, a very mature album for a band who were only producing their second album. On, and throughout, this album you will hear a wide variety of styles of music. The album features some great tracks, that have some interesting and intelligent lyrics, that were sung well by a talented vocalist, James Grant. He in turn, was fortunate to be surrounded by a talented group of musicians, who, on this album, have produced some wonderful performances, and music. What cannot be underestimated though, is the influence of producer Gary Katz. He produced a very polished album, and one which, twenty-three years later, mostly, still sounds fresh. His production provided a showcase for Love and Money’s talents, and it is a shame that this album was not more successful. If, having read this review, you are interested in hearing this album, I would have no hesitation in recommending that you go out and buy Strange Kind of Love. Should you do so, I am sure you will be glad you did, as you will have purchased a quality album, by a great group, who sadly, are underrated and overlooked by the record buying public. There are other albums by Love and Money that I would also recommend, their 1991 album Dogs In the Traffic and Cheap Pearls and Whisky Dreams: The Best of Love and Money. The latter features Love and Money’s best tracks, and is a good introduction to their music. Standout Tracks: Halleluiah Man, Strange Kind of Love, Jocelyn Square and Walk the Last Mile.
LOVE AND MONEY-STRANGE KIND OF LOVE.