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Music Review: Love and Kisses

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Being a child of the 1970s, I have a persistent and regrettable lingering fascination with disco music, especially the kind with ridiculously bloated elaborate orchestrations and absurdly long track timings.

Recently, inspired by some kind of strange disco daydream, an idle Google search for "what is the longest disco song?" led me to discover an intriguing guy by the name of Alec Costandinos.

Mr. Costandinos was a "Euro-disco" pioneer and producer behind many of the albums cranked out by the era-defining Casablanca Records label during the height of the disco craze in the late 1970s.

He also released several of his own albums with the "Syncophonic Orchestra," including a concept album about the betrayal of Jesus called Sphinx, two LPs of sprawling disco suites based on Romeo and Juliet and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and a few other albums and singles as "Love and Kisses," including the theme song to the deliciously decadent disco flick Thank God It's Friday.

So, aren't you dying to hear this stuff? So am I. Unfortunately, though, I found out most of this material has never been reissued on CD, and none of these LPs were at my neighborhood used record store either.

Undeterred, I did a little searching at the good old Dusty Groove website and there it was: the first Love and Kisses used LP for only $3.99! "Given the huge amount of instruments in this project (strings, brass, percussion, guitar, and lots more), Costandinos must have blown all of the cocaine-fueled budget amassed by Casablanca at the time…" Sold!

First things first. The album cover is certainly worth a thousand words on its own, most of which are better left unspoken in mixed company. Yep.

As for the music, Love and Kisses consists of two side-long tracks, each clocking in at over 15 minutes. The previous owner ("Pete?") scrawled "33 1/3" in blue ball point pen on the record label, probably to remind himself this was not a 12" single, but an LP with one song on each side.

So, what are we waiting for? Let's put on our boogie shoes and drop the needle.

Side 1: "Accidental Love" [sic]00:00 We begin with the inevitable thumping of a metronomic 4/4 electro-drum beat, with the string section alternating back and forth between two notes.
00:29 The vocals kick in — something about an "accidental lover," of all things. The singers are a chorus of sassy soul sistahs, and not very tuneful ones, at that. "Don't wanna love you… don't wanna love you…"
01:30 Modulation! And french horn.
01:44 "Don't wanna love you… don't wanna love you…"
02:11 Modulation! Soul sistah chatting instead of singing. "Get your hand off my knee!"
03:40 Cowbell, more cowbell! Strings swirling around and even some flute. Shaft-y wah wah guitars. Soul sistah makes heavily reverbed erotic sounds.
06:20 Harp arpeggio, soul sistah says, in breathy voice, "Don't wanna love you." Then sings "Don't wanna love you…"
07:05 Back where we started. "Accidental lover…" except now it's "You know I love you… you know I love you…" Way to go, "accidental lover" guy.
07:30 Orgasmic female noises again, with some trumpet soloing.
08:30 "You know I love you… you know I love you…"
09:15 Getting a lot of mileage out of those two string notes, a string section solo, of sorts.
10:22 Sax solo. It ain't Stan Getz, but it ain't bad.
10:45 "Do you really have to go?" Whoa, the metronomic beat is getting all syncopated on us.
11:15 Modulation! Male lead vocal — this must be the "accidental lover" himself! "It's just a dream that I'm leaving behind."
12:00 And back to the beginning again. "Accidental lover…" but the bass is jammin' pretty hard here, and the strings are digging in too. "I wanna love you" is the situation now.
13:00 "I wanna love you… I wanna love you…"
13:17 Literally back to 00:00 with the metronome beat and two string notes. "Accidental lover put a name on your face… accidental lover there's a time and a place…" or something.
14:00 "Don't wanna love you" again. You blew it, "accidental lover" guy.
15:00 Fading out just as the brass section kicks in — no, don't stop now! It's just starting to grow on me.
15:50 "Don't wanna love you …. Don't wanna love you…." [fade out]

Side 2 — "I Found Love (Now That I've Found You)"
00:00 That 4/4 metronome beat again in the same tempo as "Accidental Lover" I swear! Four piano chords this time, though.
00:15 Whoa, harp action and synth harp, too.
00:20 It's those sassy soul sistahs again with the vocals, and yes, you guessed it: "I found love now that I've found you"
01:25 Major brass hits and harp again.
01:43 Male lead vocal dude, "I found love now that I've found you…" Seriously reverbed and echoed.
02:11 Something resembling a verse. "I love you, I love you more than love can say… You're my rainbow's end…" etc.
03:00 Soul sistahs: "I found love…" etc.
03:50 Back to square one, with cowbell. More cowbell!
04:07 No wait, major instrumental percussion break situation, timbales, bongos, repeated string riff, turn on the strobe light.
05:15 And on and on it goes.
05:45 Some kind of weird Residents-ish distorted vocals in the mix here??? Backmasking perhaps?
06:25 And on and on it goes.
06:51 Drum fill-o-rama with soul claps (sort of).
07:28 A little harp action as we continue to aimlessly wander in "instrumental break" land.
07:49 Synth solo with something resembling a melody.
08:14 Guy and gal duet — singing, of course, "I found love now that I've found you…"
08:50 Modulation to something seemingly unrelated but sorta jammin' — synth-tambourine action with strings noodling around. Weird.
09:55 Synth and strings finding that melody again.
10:30 Whoa — the beat is syncopated, the dissonance is building.
10:48 And right back to 00:00 with the piano and 4/4 beat and harp glissandi.
11:23 And the soul sistahs — "I've found love now that I've found you…" — a little improv in there, this time.
11:58 Male lead vocal dude with "I've found you… I've found you… I've found you" counterpoint.
12:23 And he's back in full force now. "I love you. I love you more than words can say…"
13:30 "You're that distant dream… You're my secret wish… You're my rainbow's end every time I see you…" etc. Deep stuff.
14:20 The inevitable fade out beings. "I've found love now that I've found you…"
14:45 Wait! What the fuck! Spooky Miles Davis-ish demonic spoken voice says "and I suppose you thought it was all over. No no no no no…" followed by giggles from the band?
15:00 "I found love… now that I've found you" with sax soloing.
16:00 [fade out] for real this time.

Well, not quite the symphonic disco masterpiece I was hoping for, but they sure the hell don't make 'em like that anymore.

As Marv Gomez says in Thank God It's Friday: "Dancing. Everything else is bullshit!"

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