Love Unlimited – 1973 – Under The Influence Of
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Great stuff from the girls who first put Barry White on the map! The record is the group’s second – and by this point, Barry had developed that tight snapping drum sound that made his orchestral albums work so well. You’ll hear it to good effect on most songs on the LP, which have a great groove that’s in the best Barry White mode of the 70s – but which kind of dominates the girls’ vocals a bit. Not that anyone should complain that much, as it’s the overall package that’s always made Barry’s albums sound so great – but we do wonder how the group felt when they had to sit out the first track, which was the instrumental “Love’s Theme“, a song that went onto become Barry’s biggest song ever, and which probably sold the album a lot more than the vocal tracks. Still, you can hardly detect a note of disharmony – and the album soars from track to track, through titles like “Under The Influence Of Love“, “Say It Again“, “Yes, We Finally Made It“, and “It May Be Winter Outside“.
If there was ever to be a poster child of the disco movement, Barry White would be a top pick. Across his own solo career and through his Love Unlimited Orchestra and Love Unlimited side projects, he dominated the early days of this feel-good genre. And Love Unlimited felt best of all. White worked with vocalists Diane Taylor, Glodean James, and Glodean’s sister, Linda James, for nearly a year before their 1972 debut album, a disappointing set that nevertheless yielded one of the signature hits of the age, “Walking in the Rain With the One I Love“. It was that ethereal beauty that the trio hoped to re-create with the autumn 1973 release of Under the Influence Of…. They succeeded, with room to spare.
The album opens with the soaring strings of the Love Unlimited Orchestra’s instrumental “Love’s Theme“, a stupendous mood-setter that was released on that band’s album nearly simultaneously and became a number one hit in December. However, here the piece was merely intended to set the scene for all that was to follow. From the effusive “Oh Love, Well We Finally Made It” and the tender ballad “Lovin’ You, That’s All I’m After” to the Motown-ish strains of “It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It’s Spring“) (which gave the trio another Top 50 hit), Love Unlimited served up a nonstop diet of heartfelt, if not always heart-stopping, music.
A sweetly tempting byproduct of its era, Under the Influence Of… doesn’t walk away with top honors, and White was always best on his own material.Love Unlimited’s variations on his trademark waka-waka guitar and lush strings are never less than fascinating, however, and the poignancy of the nostalgia train continues to churn.