Tina Charles

I Love to Love

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Of all British rock's least enviable exports, the national predilection for faceless pop stars -- light of ideas, big on gimmicks, and short of substance -- has always baffled Anglophiles, even as the Anglos themselves send them rocketing chartwards. In the mid-'70s, Tina Charles was certainly the reigning queen of such creations, a sub-disco pop diva who, though she never dented a chart stateside, took six singles into her native Top 30. This, her 1976 debut album, was titled for the positively enormous number one hit that launched that sequence. Pure period disco, with soaring strings, chukka-chukka guitar, and all the right bells and whistles, it must be confessed that it has some charm. Unfortunately, Charles herself doesn't have much of a voice, singing straight from the throat and sounding painfully strangled. It can't have felt good. "I Love to Love" is her album, if not her entire career's, highlight. The rest of this set revolves around lightly plodding pop with just a hint of the hip frills that kept the kiddies dancing, overlaid with the sub-Walter Murphy orchestrations of producer Biddu. Best known for his hand on Carl Douglas' 1975 standard "Kung Fu Fighting," Biddu's slick hand is seldom far from the crime scene, and often painfully obvious -- the hyper-kung-fu'd intro to "Take All of Me" is simply his crassest operation. Occasionally, something worthwhile glimmers through the gloom -- the sweet ballad "Hold Me" at least proves what Charles is capable of when she takes it down a few notches. Even so, it really isn't good enough to make this album more than nostalgically appealing, and if you really love "I Love to Love," you'd be better off finding it on a compilation.

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