Pains of Love

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Self-released in 1986, Pains of Love is the follow-up to Twilight’s 1981 debut, Still Loving You. Twilight is the moniker of Bay Area composer/arranger/multi-instrumentalist Lawrence Ross. Due to a lack of funds and distribution, Ross never re-pressed his records, making them highly sought-after collector’s items fetching enormous sums -- and enhancing their reputation as lost classics. In 2010, Ubiquity’s Luv n’ Haight licensed both titles and reissued them, allowing them to be evaluated solely on musical merit. Pains of Love began as a series of three demos recorded with studio players for an R&B duo. When their prospective deal went south, he used the tracks as the basis for a second record. While he initially had hoped to hire more musicians on this date, it didn't happen other than the demos. In the five years between his releases, keyboards began to dominate soul and funk. Ross still played horns, guitars, basses, and drums, but synthesizers are pervasive on Pains of Love. This album also reflects the influences of Prince, Rick James, Mtume, Cameo, and Teena Marie, though the compositions and arrangement style belong indelibly to Ross. Album opener “Dance with Me” is jumpy electronic funk. Its bumping bassline and clipped snare sound enhance the funky vamps on the synths, while a stinging guitar solo sets it afire. “Find Something Else” is a jazzy soul ballad with balanced acoustic piano and synth. The lead and harmony vocals -- and the arrangement -- are influenced by Quincy Jones' production The Dude. "You’re in Love” is pure dancefloor groove, with lithe and layered backing vocals, spunky keyboard hooks, and a Ray Parker, Jr.-esque guitar vamp. It's Ross' assembling of elements on the track that makes it all his own, however. The same goes for the stepper “Never Wanna See You Low.” The title cut reflects early doo wop and classic Philly soul balladry combined with Barry White's sense of vocal dynamics with Ross' unique arrangements and production. Pains of Love is more of a piece than its predecessor, though it’s not quite as sophisticated musically -- the latter dictated by economic necessity. That said, it is a worthy successor, one that offers the very best aspects of '80s R&B, and showcases Ross’ massive talent as a songwriter and arranger. His tune mix, charts, and the sheer quality of the performances on Pains of Love are truly inspired.

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