Love and Money

There are records full of great songs with meaningful lyrics and nearly flawless execution that fail to find a significant audience despite these attributes. The Jazz idiom, in particular, has been plagued with matching quality to quantity sold. Many virtuoso performances remain the domain of a few fans.

Now with the whole music business mainly in the can (especially the album or collection of songs business – thanks to iTunes) Worse,  there is no change to this injustice within focus. This lack of fairness in the music business underscores the most frustrating truth of life that luck plays as big a role as anything when it comes to success (and many other things).

“Strange Kind of Love” by the now defunct Scottish band Love and Money, initially released in 1988, never got their share of luck and has just been served up with a reissue treatment. Maybe now, with new liner notes by producer Gary Katz and principal songwriter, singer, and guitarist James Grant Love and Money might get some luck and find more fans than the last time out. While this is not an excellent 5-star record, it is a solid four-star one you should check out.

Strange Kind of Love will charm you with its clever lyrics, memorable melodies, and guitar heroics by singer Grant. Grant is a terrific soloist, and finger picker and guitar dominate the record. Grant’s near-baritone comes through loud and clear providing many nuances to the ironic and melodic wordplay found throughout the song collection. Much of this audiophile sonic quality is thanks to Steely Dan producer Katz in one of his very few post-Dan projects.

The whole CD has that Steely Dan flavor of studio perfection. The late, great studio legend and  “groove master” – Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro – lay down some irresistible beats (including his version of the famous “Purdie shuffle” on the title track). Drummers will love the sound and feel he adds to support these rich compositions. It’s one of my favorite of Jeff’s studio performances. Dig the triplets and fills in “Scapegoat City.” Porcaro is irreplaceable. This record will make you miss him.

Porcaro’s drumming provides the perfect backdrop for Grant’s songs of love’s lost-and-gained. The interplay between keyboardist Pat McGeechan and bassist Bobby Patterson further informs the music. Patterson, in particular, shines as his bass work never overpowers in the tradition of Dee Murray, supporting each song most interestingly and melodically. Sadly, Patterson passed away in 2006. The bonus demo cuts included on the reissue, if nothing else, highlight Patterson’s rhythmic thumping that got buried a bit in the final mix.

Many outstanding records, like Who’s Next, had the benefit of working out the songs live in front of live audiences before going into the studio. According to the liner notes, this was the case with “Strange Kind of Love.” The tempo changes and the solo breaks all flow and seem just right. Hard to create that in the studio without an audience providing feedback.

The big deal here is the songs. “Jocelyn Square” with its chimney wha-wha pedal, “Walk the Last Mile,”  and “Avalanche” with their sing-a-long choruses and lush background vocals added by some Katz/Dan studio veterans. All these songs are anchored with Grant’s one-two of vocals and guitar that communicate longing and wailing. While not the greatest guitarist ever, he is one of the absolute finest lead singer/songwriter/vocalist combinations. Grant is the star of this record.

There are few, if any, real duds on this record – almost every song holds up upon repeated listening – and they are all toe-tappers—no boring ballads here to wade through.

Love and Money never broke the top 40 in the US but did have a bit of a following in the UK with some successful singles. According to Wikipedia, Strange Kind of Love sold about 250K copies worldwide. While their other albums offer a few excellent tracks, none achieved the consistency found on Strange Kind of Love. With Patterson and Porcaro gone, Strange Kind of Love will remain the band’s watershed.

Grant has soldiered on as a troubadour, focusing less on blazing guitar and more on crafting lovely, introspective, primarily acoustic songs (worth investigating) that explore his Scottish roots and show off his songwriting chops.

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