Ray Conniff

Love Songs

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For those who like their romantic music with a healthy dose of kitsch and retro style, Ray Conniff's Love Songs fits the bill. The collection covers his adorably square work from the late '50s and early '60s through his more orchestrated and rock-influenced work from the late '60s and '70s, with "The Way You Look Tonight" defining the former and "You Light Up My Life" defining the latter. Though Conniff's heyday came relatively early in his career -- with songs like this collection's "I'm in the Mood for Love," "Memories are Made of This," and "It Had to Be You" representing that era -- the remainder of his work is as interesting, if not as successful, as what preceded it. The theatrical bent of his late-'60s-early-'70s material fits songs such as The Godfather's "Speak Softly Love," and Love Story's "Where Do I Begin," while his other work from that time experiments with exotic and foreign touches, as on "This is My Song," and Serge Gainsbourg's "Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus (Love at First Sight)." Interestingly enough, the collection also reflects how pop music shifted away from a collection of standard songs with many possible interpretations to singer/songwriter-based music that, when covered, usually stayed close to the original version; the fat bass and electric pianos on the cover of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" nod to the original. While Love Songs doesn't contain enough of Conniff's essential music to make the collection work as a straightforward hits collection, it certainly captures the slightly dreamy, slightly playful feel that defined all of his material. Even if the lounge revival is no longer hip, Conniff's music is so well-produced and arranged that it still makes fun, surprisingly fresh-sounding mood music.

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