Captain & Tennille’s Greatest Hits

Captain & Tennille

1977: A&M 75021 3105 2

  1. Love Will Keep Us Together
  2. Muskrat Love
  3. Circles
  4. Wedding Song (There Is Love)
  5. Come In From the Rain
  6. Lonely Night (Angel Face)
  7. Shop Around
  8. I Write the Songs
  9. The Way I Want to Touch You
  10. Disney Girls
  11. Can’t Stop Dancin’
  12. We Never Really Say Goodbye

I am a scrupulously honest person, and I must be absolutely clear about why I have this CD: it’s as much a must-have as a liability, the excellent tracks being even more outstanding when so juxtaposed with the execrable ones.

Absolute top placement here goes to “The Way I Want to Touch You.” The arrangement on this version (apparently there are around five others that were released at one point or another) is very gently touching until its closing sequence, when it is transformed from its chrysalis into a bewilderingly beautiful vocal expression of the gush of love at its all-consuming height. As sensuously sweeping as it is to listen to, it’s nearly as much of a delight to sing along with for its backing vocals (“way, way, the way, the way…”—gorgeous and lush). Also, the chorus lyrics are a nice use of opposites—not as sophisticated or sharp as, say, those Annie Lennox arranged for “Love Is a Stranger,” but still better than the cotton-candy fluff of other ’70s pop.

Immediate runner-ups are “Shop Around,” “Love Will Keep Us Together,” and “Lonely Night (Angel Face).” On the extreme other end of the scale, however, are the legendarily saccharine “Muskrat Love” and of course “I Write the Songs” (though it must be conceded that neither was originally theirs…still, they did record them).

“Shop Around” is one of those ’70s masterpieces I tend to forget about…and then I happen to hear it somewhere and remember “oh YEAH, that was GREAT!” It’s a nice-’n’-tight track—perfect pop mastery— Tennille’s vocals strut and stomp brilliantly through the song’s structure and wrench it out of its smarmy original tone and right up into an empowering (for ANYONE singing it) testifying of what Jill Conner Browne (the Boss Queen of the Sweet Potato Queens) refers to as the Be Particular mindset (and it reminds me, happily, of the feeling of female-emancipation-and-self-actualization that was refreshingly in the air in the mid-’70s, especially in that it posits a supposition that the woman being addressed is the instigator of the marriage proposal and makes no big deal of that). The slippery keyboard work on this track—precise, to be sure, but not at ALL conventional or predictable—is an excellent instrumental counterpart to Tennille’s vocals: to the casual listener it doesn’t particularly stand out or skew the track, but if you’re at all piano-savvy you’ll be surprised and even a little dazzled by the subtle disorientation of Dragon’s craft in this simultaneously meticulous and wild beauty. All this, AND Tennille slams down a perfect main vocal track plus her own backups to seal the deal: awesome, I tell you.

“Lonely Night (Angel Face)” makes a fine companion piece to “Shop Around,” stylistically cut from the same tree but only in these recordings. “Love Will Keep Us Together” is by Neil Sedaka, as is “Lonely Night (Angel Face)”, but this track scarcely resembles it. The evocative/ambient stuff in its opening is an amusing teaser compared with the strong-and-tight delivery immediately following.

A final note on C&T’s style(s): Tennille has one of those voices that’s not only catchy (even yummy at times) as a lead vocal but also becomes a sumptuous treat when chorally multitracked. When she’s providing all three parts of a chord as a backing track, it’s almost always superior to any imaginable alternative…and on “The Way I Want to Touch You” those voices are all flawlessly parallelled (although to be frank the instrumental side gets a little abundant by comparison and diffuses the focus).