There are records, records full of great songs with meaningful and effective lyrics and nearly flawless execution that despite these attributes fail to find a significant audience. The Jazz idiom in particular has been plagued with this problem, but matching quality to quantity extends throughout all popular music.
Now with the whole music business essentially in the can (especially the album or collection of songs business – thanks to iTunes), there is no change to this injustice within focus. This lack of fairness in the music business underscores that 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 that was originally released in 1988, never got their share of luck and has just be 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 some more fans than the last time out. While this is not a great 5 star record, it most certainly 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 dominates the record. Grant’s near-baritone comes through loud and clear providing much nuance to the ironic and melodic wordplay found throughout the song collection. Much of this audiophile sonic quality is thanks to Steely Dan producer Katz – here in one of his very few post-Dan projects.
The whole CD in fact has that Steely Dan flavor of studio perfection. The late, great, studio legend, and “groove master” – Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro – lays down some irresistible beats (including the famous Purdie shuffle on the title track). Drummer’s will love the sound and feel he adds supporting these wonderful compositions. It’s one of my favorite of Jeff’s studio performances. Dig the triplets and fills on “Skapegoat City.” Porcaro will never be replaced. 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 in a most interesting and melodic way. Sadly, Patterson passed away in 2006. The bonus demo cuts included on the reissue, if nothing else, highlight Patterson’s melodic thumping that got buried a bit in the final mix.
Many great 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.” All the changes in tempo and the solo breaks all flow and seem just right. You can’t create that in the studio without the benefit of an audience providing feedback.
The big deal here are the songs. “Jocelyn Square” with its chimey wha-wha pedal, “Walk the Last Mile” and “Avalanche” with their sing-a-long choruses and lush background vocals 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 to come along. Clearly 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 following in the UK with some successful singles. Strange Kind of Love sold about 250K copies worldwide according to Wikipedia. While their other albums offer a few nice tracks, none achieved the level of consistency found on Strange Kind of Love. With Patterson and Porcaro gone, Strange Kind of Love is destined to remain the bands’ watershed.
Grant has soldiered on as a troubadour, focusing less on blazing guitar and more on crafting lovely, introspective mostly acoustic songs (worth investigating) that explore his Scottish roots and show off his songwriting chops.