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The Top 10 Romantic Oldies Albums

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Everyone has their favorite romantic albums and love song cds, and here's mine... a list of the best "make-out" music of the oldies era (approximately 1945-1979), as hand-picked by me. If you were assembling a collection of great cds for lovers only, these ten would be my picks... they cover everything from pop to lounge, rock to r&B, instrumental, vocal, and much more! If you have a suggestion for upcoming lists, e-mail me!

1. Al Green, "Greatest Hits"

Al Green IS Love, as many of us know. Yet although romantic, sensual songs were his main claim to fame, they alone weren't the full extent of his vision. This excellent greatest-hits package -- the definitive 15-track 1995 version -- is the best way to get most of your favorites in one place. Romantic on top and gritty on the bottom, and by turns sexy, holy, frustrated, blissful, and pleading, these songs define Seventies soul, and, some say, love in general. The ultimate mood-setter for any R&B fan.

2. Johnny Mathis, "Johnny's Greatest Hits"

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Not just any Greatest Hits package, but the very first greatest hits album by any artist! This collection of the golden-voiced Mathis' biggest hits flows seamlessly, and while it only flows for half an hour, it's the dreamiest 30 minutes you and your special friend will ever spend. The proof of this LP's power to move hearts lies in the raw stats: this collection stayed on the charts for a full decade after its release.

3. Van Morrison, "Astral Weeks"

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Van the Man is known as a romantic soul, and songs like "Moondance" are still proving it every day, but this - his first proper solo album - remains a stunning masterpiece of hyperromantic impressionism. Played like folk, moaned like the blues, orchestrated like classical and accompanied like jazz, every song starts off deceptively gentle and then spurs Van on to greater and greater heights of romantic ecstasy. An album so powerful it has literally been known to save lives.

4. Jackie Gleason, "How Sweet It Is!"

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Jackie Gleason was a titan among comedians for his work on the "Honeymooners," but he was also well-known in his day for recording numerous albums of impossibly lush "mood music." (One was actually called Music To Make Her Change Her Mind, if you can believe that.) This is the best collection of his work so far, guaranteed to ensnare whoever you have in your Space Age Bachelor (or Bachelorette) Pad; it's so sweet and silky folks not used to genre may need a few spins to settle in.

5. Frank Sinatra, "Greatest Love Songs"

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The Chairman of the Board is well known for his seductive powers, and there are many, many compilations of his work that would make this particular list with ease. However, this one really lives up to its title, removing the uptempo swing numbers and focusing on silky smooth ballads alone. No one can seem so conversational about the deepest secrets of the heart while singing than Sinatra, and this collection proves it 22 times over.

6. Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On"

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You already know that the title track is a masterpiece of seduction, but the rest of the album is every bit as good - including the LP's other hit, "Distant Lover." Marvin multitracks himself to eternity and back, and the result does the same thing for bedroom politics that "What's Going On" did for social awareness. It may be a little direct in its carnality to lay on someone you don't know that well, but it conversely kindles already-smoldering fires just fine.

7. Various Artists, "Best Of Doo-Wop Ballads"

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The rich harmonies of doo-wop usually come in two flavors: uptempo tales of lust and buffoonery, and dreamy ballads of love and loss. This excellent collection assembles the best of the latter, and while some of these hits deal with the downside of love, the overall atmosphere is so rich with longing, neither one of you will care. Lush and romantic in the extreme.

8. Barry White, "All-Time Greatest Hits"

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Barry White is practically a punchline when it comes to seductive soul: if he didn't invent the genre, he very nearly perfected it with long, delicately funky, string-soaked odes to the female of the species. This is by far the best collection of his Seventies hits, and while the tracks are all single-length, this just means there's more of Barry to love. Orchestral yet funky, sort of like what Shaft does when he's being a sex machine to all the chicks.

9. The Platters, "All-Time Greatest Hits"

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The Platters were the last of the great straight pop-vocal groups, and their elegant simplicity still travels across generations and musical tastes effortlessly; no one can deny the sheer glory of love shining through these grooves, even if the groove itself often takes a backseat. This is the very best collection of their timeless hits. Don't play for anyone you don't want to fall for you; also not something you want to listen to in the throes of a breakup.

10. Elvis Presley, "Love Songs" (BMG International)

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It could be argued that Elvis sang about little besides love; the fantasy of being with him was, after all, a large part of his charm. Still, few CD compilations have captured that side of him consistently, but this import -- not to be confused with RCA's stateside CD of the same name -- is the best single-disc assemblage of his love songs, not just collecting the big hits and the rarities but programming them so they sustain a cohesive romantic mood. Not much heartache here, and not much uptempo, just a good old soundtrack for the submarine races, or anyone who wants to hear the Pelvis in a consistently mellow mood.
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