“I thought it was science-fiction fantasy that this would ever happen.” That’s how one fan at the Grammy Museum on Tuesday night described his initial reaction to news that Darlene Love would be recording her first solo album in 30 years.
Well, the fantasy turned into reality for him and others packed inside the museum’s Clive Davis Theater as the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer relayed stories about her five-decade career and new album, Introducing Darlene Love. Also joining her: longtime friend and the album’s arranger/producer Stevie Van Zandt. The E Street Band guitarist’s Wicked Cool label, in partnership with Columbia Records, will release the 14-track project this Friday.
Having premiered Introducing Darlene Love during a sold-out show at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theater on Sept. 12, Love and Van Zandt will take the stage at Hollywood’s Whisky A Go Go on Friday for another sold-out appearance. Before performing a half-dozen album tracks for the museum audience — including songs by Elvis Costello (first single “Forbidden Nights”), Linda Perry (“Love Kept Us Foolin’ Around”) and Bruce Springsteen (“Night Closing In”) — Love and Van Zandt chatted about everything from Phil Spector and Tina Turner to singer Marian Anderson.
On why it took 30 years for this album to happen:
Van Zandt: There’s no excuse. It was just one thing after another over the years. But it got to the point one day where I couldn’t tolerate her not being heard. I said, “Enough, we’re going to do this,” and we went into the studio the next day. I’ve got my own label and radio station now [SiriusXM’s Underground Garage]. So I thought, “I’ll put it out and play it.” Then I called Columbia, Bruce’s label, and said, “I just made the album of the year. Wanna hear it?” Now Columbia is distributing, which means she is going to be heard.
Love: I always believed my day would come. Many record labels now don’t feel you’re sell-able after the age of 20. But Stevie took everything he’s learned and experienced — his wisdom, songwriting, his travels around the world — and put it into me. And I’m grateful for that.
On the album’s tongue-in-cheek title:
Love: Stevie told me, “I’ve got it and I’m not telling you.” And I didn’t know the title until we had the listening party.
Van Zandt: Very few people have heard the adult Darlene Love; she was 18, 19 when she got started. I tried to capture the breadth of her talent. But we didn’t want to do survivor-type songs. It’s romance, adventure with a spiritual foundation; blues, R&B, Motown, girl groups, rock and roll — it’s all on there. It’s about connecting the continuum.
On her main vocal influence:
Love: Marian Anderson. I just loved her voice and wanted to sing like that. My father was a Pentecostal minister; that’s how I was brought up. So I never thought of having a secular career.
On including Phil Spector’s classic “River Deep, Mountain High”:
Van Zandt: I liked his [Wall of Sound] style, but he owns it. My recording style is different. I have a wall, but it’s a Wall of Clarity. I want everyone to hear everything in a record. But “Night Closing In” is the one song on the album that I gave the Spector approach to.
Love: Phil taught “River” to me and The Blossoms. Then we looked up and there’s Tina [Turner]. I thought, “I guess she’s going to sing this song since she wasn’t here to learn the backgrounds with us.” But on our version, you can hear everything. It’s not crushed together like Phil did.