Valentunes

Making a love mix for someone is a time-honored art, and even if it no longer requires transferring songs to tape in real time, the same spirit persists in the MP3 era.

Of course, you don’t have to be in love to enjoy a good love song. A good love song can remind the downhearted how love should sound, and also act as a salve for all love-related aches and pains.

If nothing else, making a love mix can be a good way to take inventory of your music collection. Just type the word “love” into your iTunes and you’ll get a sense of how varied your digital music collection is.

It was that very exercise that led me to compiling this playlist of songs with love in the title. A detailed tracklist follows, and while it’s a varied mix of styles, cultures and time periods, it’s still just one man’s mix. If you’d like to help us compile a more inclusive and multi-faceted love mix, just add your recommendations in the comments or send in tracks and song titles to music@kcfreepress.com. In the meantime, here’s:

LW’s top 14 Valentunes for 2010:

Technically “Helen” by Ariel Pink doesn’t have the word love in the title, but you need at least one female first-name track in any love mix, so why not include one named after the girl with the face that launched a thousand mix-tapes?

It’s certainly not the top-selling Stevie Wonder song with love in the title, but then-16-year-old Stevie’s “Hey Love” is one of my favorite songs of all time. This mono version clocks in a few seconds longer than the album cut, and it’s just one of the 583 tracks you’ll be able to enjoy if you feel like ponying up the $189.99 to buy your lover The Complete Stevie Wonder on iTunes.

Lee Moses “If Loving You’s A Crime” from 1965 and Helene Smith’s “I Am Controlled By Your Love” from 1967 are the perfect answer to each other, both musically and thematically. Lee Moses recordings can be a bit difficult to track down, but Helene Smith is featured on the Deep City reissues from Numero Group, which are available on vinyl at Streetside Records (which, incidentally, is throwing a big record sale this Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

“Kingdom of Love” by the Soft Boys is filled with singer Robyn Hitchcock’s highly romantic imagery: “”You’ve been laying eggs under my skin/now they’re hatching out under my chin/now there’s tiny insects showing through/and all them tiny insects look like you.” Truly a Valentine’s Day classic.

“La La Means I Love You” is by Jamaican rocksteady pioneer Alton Ellis, often called the godfather of lover’s rock. “It’s easier for me to sit down and write a song about love than other situations,” said Ellis, who died in 2008. “I feel it more and express it more. I think it’s in my nature.”

This 1969 tune by The Feminine Complex is easy to “Love Love Love.” With vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Roches, the wavering organ and simple arrangement give this reissue the sun-faded sentiment of a lost summer love.

Nobody did literary love laments in the form of pop songs better than Australian duo The Go Betweens. Go Betweens singer/songwriter Grant McLennan died in 2006, and Kansas City DJ and label owner Robert Moore organized a tribute show in the band’s honor in May 2008. “Love Wasn’t Made For You And Me” is from their very first days as a group back circa 1978.

King Khan & BBQ show’s classic-sounding “Love You So” was a highlight at a 2006 recordBar appearance, in which Khan wore a sparkling dress and purple wig.

“Loving You Sometimes” is a great garage track with a nice twist in the title. Read more about The Outcasts at Garage Hangover.

Before they were Creedence Clearwater Revival, they were the Golliwogs, and before they were the Golliwogs, The Fogertys and friends were known as The Blue Velvets, and it was this early incarnation of Creedence that released “Oh My Love” in 1961.

“Prove Your Love” is a song so sumptuous it almost masks the ultimatum contained within the title. Fleetwood Mac cover band and Kansas City supergroup “Everywhere” has been known to cover this sleeper cut from Fleetwood Mac’s 1974 album, “Heroes Are Hard To Find.”

“This Girl’s In Love With You” was Kansas City leading soul lady Marva Whitney’s urgent, upbeat take on the Burt Bacharach classic. Whitney’s 1969 album, “It’s My Thing,” was produced by James Brown and featured a particularly funky lineup of his group, which she was the principal female singer of for several years. Last we heard from Mrs. Whitney’s tour manager, her recovery from a stroke has been going well, and we continue to wish her the best in 2010.

“What Do You Think About Love?” is this mix’s sole inclusion from the nineties. Shrimp Boat singer Sam Prekop attended the KC Art Institute, where he met Archer Prewitt and went on to form The Sea and Cake in Chicago.

“Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee,” by Captain Beefheart is the last song I’d like to mention. I didn’t include the actual audio file here, because I really don’t like the song that much. But the title is great.