Astonishing as it might be to many pop fans, Darlene Love’s new LP, “Paint Another Picture,” is her first album.
That fact tends to come as a surprise to the many who remember Love as the teen-age singer on some of the biggest singles of the early ‘60s--songs like “He’s a Rebel,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” and “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah"--all done under the aegis of boy-genius producer Phil Spector.
The key word there is singles .
“When we were recording back in the ‘60s, albums weren’t that popular,” said the bubbly singer, now a New Yorker, during a recent visit to Los Angeles, her hometown. “It was all about getting that 45 out. Only later did Phil put together a compilation album of everything we had done.”
Even then, that compilation album had Spector’s name on the front cover, not Love’s (nor any other performer’s). The most famous pop producer of them all was a bigger superstar than any singers among the bullpen he kept on hand to belt out wonderfully disposable ditty after ditty--and he kept it that way by issuing most of the singles under the name of some generic group, not the actual lead singer.
Thus it was the rare record that came out with Love’s name on it. Most of the bigger hits were released under the monikers of the Crystals or Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans--fairly arbitrary tags.
“When I recorded ‘He’s Sure the Boy I Love,’ Phil actually told me that that was going to be a Darlene Love record when we put it out,” recalled Love. “Then, the day it came out, I turned on the radio and the disc jockey said, ‘And now the Crystals’ new release. . . .’
“I think I sort of took it in stride. There was nothing I could really do about it. . . . I didn’t know those songs were going to still be such a big cult thing 25 years later. I probably would’ve taken care of the songs a little better, had I known!”
Love isn’t taking any chances this time out. Her new single--her first in more than a decade--is a remake of “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” (which reached No. 11 on the charts under the Crystals’ moniker in January, 1963), modernized with the usual ‘80s production values and retitled “He’s Sure the Man I Love.”
The anonymous contemporary sheen of the single and album--produced by Jimmy Iovine, David Letterman’s music man Paul Shaffer, Love’s manager Kenny Laguna and others--may not please Spector fans, and though Love clearly has the pipes to do a soul record, that’s not what “Paint Another Picture” is, either.
A budding acting career is another route Love has taken to reach different audiences. A role as Danny Glover’s wife in the 1986 action blockbuster “Lethal Weapon” was her first screen appearance since a cameo in the 1970 Elvis Presley vehicle “Change of Habit.”
And then there’s the enduring seasonal popularity of the most glorious of all Spector/Love collaborations, the aching, soaring love song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"--which in recent years has served as the opening theme of “Gremlins,” remake fodder for U2 (whose new recording last year featured Love on background vocals) and a yearly TV variety-show staple for Love herself.
“It started off as David Letterman saying, ‘Well, Paul, what are you going to be doing this Christmas?’ and Paul Shaffer saying, ‘Well, Dave, Christmas isn’t Christmas until I hear Darlene Love sing the Christmas song.’ It’s become an annual event for me.”