The title of Darlene Love’s latest album is of course ironic.  Darlene had her first hit in 1962 with He’s A Rebel as the lead singer of The Blossoms, although the single was credited to the better-known Crystals who were out on tour and were unavailable to record the song at the time.  He’s A Rebel, Today I Met The Boy I’m Going To Marry and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), all recorded under the direction of Phil Spector, have ensured Love’s immortality in the pop firmament.  With Introducing Darlene Love, she shows signs of perhaps actually being immortal – this is a  74 year old woman  belting out songs with the vigour of someone half her age. Darlene_Love

The album is produced by Steve Van Zandt who is steeped in Spector’s Wall Of Sound production techniques, both as someone who grew up with his hits and as a member of The E Street Band where his Boss moulded Spector’s signature sound round his own compositions.  Springsteen contributes two songs to the album, joining a star-studded line up of admirers including Elvis Costello, Jimmy Webb, and Joan Jett who all contribute songs.

While the Spector influence is front and centre, not all the songs are in this style and the ones that are fall on the right side of the tribute/pastiche line.  It’a a brave woman who tackles River Deep Mountain High but the version here takes on a Motown sheen, nodding to the style of Papa Was A Rolling Stone and showing Tina Turner a clean pair of stilettos.  Jimmy Webb’s the-world’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handcart epic Who Under Heaven is handled with stately majesty until it morphs into one of his galloping kitchen sink instrumental sections (that’s a good thing, by the way).  Love emerges unscathed from the other side and takes the song to the climax it deserves.

I’ve always thought that Elvis Costello’s Still To Soon To Know was a rather clumsy song, seeming to fall over its own feet, hamstrung by Costello’s overwrought vocal.  Sung here as a duet with Bill Medley, Love improves on the original, bringing the song the bittersweet wisdom of experience.  Springsteen’s Night Closing In is an unsurprisingly full-on Spector girl group concoction, all chattering castanets, chiming bells and booming drums, fitting Love like a glove.  The closing two tracks are both gospel-inspired, Van Zandt’s Jesus Is The Rock (That Keeps Me Rolling) ending the album on a testifying high.

Introducing Darlene Love is a triumph, not only for Love herself but for Van Zandt as well.  If you are looking for a comeback album, then they don’t come better than this.  Love is all you need.

Reviewed via Tidal

John Scott

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