Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Whispers - It's A Love Thing (1981/ No. 9/ 11 weeks/ Solar)


It starts with an impressively resonant Moog;

Wa wa wa wung-wung!
Wa wa wung-wung-wung wung!
Wa wa wa wung-wung!

That sounded fun! Yes, I thought that you'd enjoy that. Let's just play it once more, so you remember it correctly;

Wa wa wa wung-wung!
Wa wa wung-wung-wung wung!
Wa wa wa wung-wung!

I think that a bit of bass guitar would fit in nicely now, too;

bunk a bunk -
bunk a bunk bunk!

This is great! I'm already up on my feet and am going to enjoy wherever you takes me for the next five minutes, Whispers.

Oooh look! The Whispers didn't only have the one hit in 'And The Beat Goes On'... They'd actually been around forever, as far back as 1964, and I'm surprised to learn that they'd regularly been having US R&B hits since 1970 - a million years before disco in pop terms.

You can tell that they had serious soul chops when you listen to this, though. Its classic disco, but they were certainly extremely skilled at presenting a range of vocals, building up a pop structure, creating a clever and joyous arrangement, and other happy and hard-won aspects of their craft.

This is not a terribly sophisticated or nuanced song in itself, reiterating many times that a love thing is being experienced (yeah!), a more exciting and truthful sensation than has been known before whenever you're near, etc. What gives it it's revelatory force is in the nuanced and variant forms of joy expressed in the voices of the two lead singers. The first is quite nasal and fun to impersonate as you sing along;

The lewwk in your eyeze
Iz more than enurrgth
To make my poor heart
Burst into flame...

Knew from the mo-ment we met
That there was no douwbt
That my life would nevur be the sayme...

Enter the second Whisper, who has a smooth and soaring falsetto, very much like Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire. He's so (understandably) ecstatic to tell us all about this love thing he's feeling, that his words seem to run together

Icouldneverhidethefeelingsthatcome -
O-ver me!
Whenyou'renearmeIknowthat'showit's -
Su-posed to be!
My heart keeps telling mee!

Both voices together - and some other Whispers to boot - then tell us that that "It's a love thing! Yeah!"

I think that the trick of this record, like a lot of great club music of 30 years ago, is that it sounds quite simple and unadorned, ideal for the radio, but once you start listening, you realise that its jam-packed full of good things, continually shifting around, showing you new sides of itself. As in the brief swirls of strings, or buildups of brass, that seem to only be around for a bar then drop right down in the mix, each providing a new patch of shade or light to help the listener appreciate the whole picture.

The best way to pick up everything that's going on here is to dance to it, naturally. Then whenever a new idea comes in you have to adapt your moves to acknowledge it, and add a new shimmy or turn. I note that I always do handclaps to this, which change from being pairs to coming in threes by the end of it.

Wouldn't it be dandy to actually feel a Love Thing (Yeah!) that was as invariably and effectively happymaking as the record is?

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