Barry White seemed so filled with self-parody at first that it was easy to dismiss him. But it is becoming increasingly obvious with every additional release that he is a very talented man. His distinction rests with the fact that he is currently one of rock’s great bandleaders. At his best, he can perform any song at what feels like the beat of the universe, the perfect tempo.
White doesn’t make albums, only singles mixed with filler. On his latest, the record revolves around the opening cuts on either side, “Heavenly, That’s What You Are to Me” and “What Am I Gonna Do with You.” The latter is my favorite White record to date. It has all the elements of his style — a simple melodic groove, pounding rhythm section, elaborate arrangement, including French horns, growling singing (done in imaginative close harmony) and the usual soft-core sex lyrics. But White and the band sound even more sure of themselves than usual and the music flows endlessly, pushed along by his unlimited confidence.
A cut as good as that one helps to make up for the unbearable pretensions of things like “Let Me Live My Life Lovin’ You Babe” and “Love Serenade.” White’s talent is limited but undeniable. And I find it worth wading through his sillier efforts to get to the more convincing ones.