In between stints as a TV host and Broadway performer in the early 2000s, the always game, irresistibly charming and charismatic musical icon resurrected his scattered recording career and found new life as an interpreter of Broadway hits and pop standards -- with some original material at last on 2005's What I Meant to Say. While 2002's Somewhere in Time drew from pop classics from across the decades -- including a new cover of "Paul Anka"'s mush-pop classic "Puppy Love," which Osmond recorded first at age 14 -- Love Songs of the 70s is focused on those shimmering dig 'em or scorn 'em, lovelorn pop hits from the decade we first met Donny. Songs like "Let's Stay Together" and "I Can See Clearly Now" endure as soul classics, while others -- "Laughter in the Rain," "Mandy" -- seem relegated to pop nostalgia status. The good news is that all of the arrangements are fresh and exciting, ranging from the buoyant reggae pop of "I Can See Clearly Now" and the brass-fired "Let's Stay Together" and "Laughter in the Rain" to the more subtle charms of "You Are So Beautiful" and "How Deep Is Your Love." A big surprise (because it's not a love song!) is a brilliantly funky version of Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round in Circles," which Osmond tackles in fine, soulful voice (as he does nearly every song here). For an interpreter, Osmond's vocals may lack the cool, jazzy flair of a Michael Bublé, but it's strong and convincing enough to convey real emotion (which helps this transcend the idea of a simply nostalgic novelty disc) and his colorful phrasing proves inventive and surprising. It bears as much repeated listening (and for some, this will be a guilty pleasure) as Barry Manilow's excellent Summer of '78, and then some. To remind us that there's really no artist more qualified to take us back to the Me Decade, Decca includes in the packaging a year by year time line of the '70s, complete with classic Osmond pics and every one of his album covers from then to the present day.
Decades, Vol. 1: Love Songs of the 70's
Decades, Vol. 1: Love Songs of the 70's Review
by Jonathan Widran