The 1984 debut duet album Love Wars by Cecil and Linda Womack (Womack & Womack) has soulful harmonies galore and such a fun but soothing sound; it’s a fairly upbeat record but it is also delicate in both sound and subject material. The theme of the album is not predictable, instead of being a loved up soppy or sexy soul release it is all about the struggles of relationships and break-ups, but without a pathetic or whiny approach. Love Wars is full of emotion and relatability to anyone who has ever been in, or unexpectedly out, of a relationship.
The title track ‘Love Wars’ opens the album and has some of the most pleasant harmonies I’ve heard on an 80s soul tune, it has a signature 80s synth pop sound but is less cheesy and more gorgeously melodic combined with the vocals. Lyrically this is a great song as well, the emotions are so well expressed, alongside many Prince-like moments without it feeling imitative of his work. Love Wars opens very well with this title track and continues to impress the whole way through the record, I can’t fault any track. The second number, ‘Express Myself’, is funky and a bit more upbeat than much of the album. This is much more of a duet between the two, where the husband and wife duo complement each other on every single overlap and their impassioned responses. The drums and percussion are supported by a jazzy organ synth, with some tasty guitar chords, which all come together in this effortlessly rhythmic duet.
With ‘Baby I’m Scared of You’, which is comparable with George Benson, the sound falls somewhere between Latin funk and tropical soul. Linda Womack has such a unique voice, which gets to explore a wider range in this track. Cecil Womack is reminiscent of Teddy Pendergrass here, and numerous times across the album, he sounds like a slightly softer version – less growly disco funk and more sassy soul. ‘Baby I’m Scared of You’ has a great build up towards the end, it feels like you could both dance in a disco or relax around the pool to this. Talking of Mr. Pendergrass, ‘T.K.O.’ is a cover of one of his most famous tracks, although the instrumentation is near identical (with a few 80s frills) the production is somewhat gentler. ‘T.K.O.’ is pure erection section material, with these baby-makin’ grooves it is the definition of sexy.
There’s a funky soul number in ‘A.P.B.’, which is a highlight on the album, another example of how good the backing vocalists are. The album features the legendary Bobby Womack as one of the backing vocalists, and the whole personnel is comprised of most of the Womack family. The musicians on this album are also at the top of their game, Neil Larsen gets a groovy guitar solo on ‘Catch and Don’t Look Back’, alongside James Gadson’s drumming and Paulinho Da Costa’s percussion which make this track feel timeless. The album features an unexpected cover of The Rolling Stone’s ‘Angie’, alternatively titled ‘Angel’, which has some awesome production. This version has a beautiful sound with some Spanish guitar work and choral backing vocals, and there’s that magic chime twinkle we all love; it’s a very evocative version, and has all the feels.
Despite the thematic content on most of the album, Love Wars ends on an uplifting note with ‘Good Times’ which takes a fonder look back on a failed relationship, which features some pleasantly jazzy and bouncy keys. Who would have thought an album titled Love Wars, about failed relationships and dilemmas of love, could end up being such an incredibly produced and romantic soul album? Love Wars sounds both mellow and danceable, featuring 80s synths that do not feel cheesy, and is an emotionally aware record that will stand the test of time.