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Chuck Mangione – Love Notes (1982)
purchase this album (Amazon)

In all the months since Jefitoblog bit the dust, I don’t think a week has gone by that I haven’t received some kind of communication from a distressed former reader, wondering if and when the site would be coming back.

Well, friends, we’re back together again. This is what you’ve been waiting for: Chuck Mangione! Right in your ear! Ha ha ha! Was it worth the wait?

Mangione has actually undergone a sort of rebirth since the mid-to-late ’90s, thanks to his appearances on King of the Hill, as well as the fact that he performed “Feels So Good,” also known as “The Greatest Smooth Jazz Song of All Time, Ever,” a song so good it very nearly validates the existence of smooth jazz. But not quite.

Since I know you’re asking, I’ll just tell you up front: No, “Feels So Good” appears nowhere on this album. This is unfortunate. Sure, the song was released five years before this album, and by 1982, the Mang was probably good and tired of hearing it — but still, he had to have known that he was never going to be involved in the creation of anything anywhere near as magnificent as “Feels So Good.” His new label, Columbia, also had to have known this, which is why they should have insisted on a “Feels So Good” clause in his contract, stipulating that the song appear at least once on every release. (Note: Multiple appearances would be even better. Try assembling an EP out of the “Feels So Good” single edit, album cut, and live version, and put it on repeat. See if you don’t spend the morning grinning like a buffoon.)

Anyway, as I said, Mangione has had a rebirth, which means he went through a long fallow period — a period which began, unfortunately, with this particular album. Love Notes kicked off a string of releases so bland and lifeless that not even the All Music Guide has anything to say about them. He must have been selling records — Columbia kept him around for five albums — but it’s been well established that smooth jazz fans will buy anything, as long as it isn’t too exciting.

They must have been ecstatic about Love Notes, because these five songs (yes, five — gotta love the vinyl era) make Kenny G sound like Ornette Coleman. Don’t believe me? Fine, here’s “No Problem” (download), the longest thirteen minutes you will ever spend listening to a band trying to muster the energy to build a groove. (And failing, unless you count endless quarter notes on a drum and listless, forlorn fumbling on a bass “a groove.”)

The album’s best track (and I use that phrase loosely) is “To the ’80s” (download), if only because it manages to work up something vaguely resembling enthusiasm. It still comes across like a high school jazz band’s attempt at hep swingin’, but it’s too short to put you to sleep. And it has handclaps.

Looking back, it’s tempting to wonder what kind of love Mangione was referring to in the album’s title. He was clearly bored with his horn, and shows no discernible affection for songwriting. The most satisfying explanation I can think of is that he was in love with punk rock, and was using this batch of runny, off-colored songs as a way of making a subversive statement about bad smooth jazz. That isn’t very likely, though, especially given the rest of the crap Mangione released in the ’80s; it’s far more likely that he just got lazy and stopped trying.

At least we’ll always have “Feels So Good.”