Love Songs by Etta James
Romanza by Andrea Bocelli
Midnight Love and the Sexual Healing Sessions by Marvin Gaye
Moondance by Van Morrison
The Ultimate Collection by Barry White
My Romance by Carly Simon

Music for a loving mood

By Julian Wise - February 9, 2006

"Love Songs" by Etta James
Ms. James's soaring, elegant voice is given its due in this Chess Records gem. From her classic rendition of "At Last" to the elegant grace notes on "I Want to Be Loved (But Only by You)" Ms. James reigns supreme. Her blend of emotional candor and gospel-tinged soul makes this collection a romantic standout.

"Romanza" by Andrea Bocelli
This Tuscany-born singer has become a global sensation with his modern twist on opera. While he's drawn mixed reviews from purists, Andrea Bocelli has won the hearts of legions of fans with his pop instrumental textures, swooning vocals, and ear-pleasing melodies. "Romanza" is his largest success to date, widening opera's appeal outside of its narrow genre niche into the popular mainstream.

"Midnight Love and the Sexual Healing Sessions" by Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" is the final hit of his career and arguably one of the most seductive songs ever written. Less boldly risqué than much of the teen-pop fodder clogging the airwaves today, "Sexual Healing" combines silky-smooth production values and near-perfect vocal technique to elevate the song into the pop music pantheon. This CD has four versions of the song, including the original vocal, an instrumental, and an alternative vocal mix.

"Moondance" by Van Morrison
After the brooding introspection of "Astral Weeks," Van Morrison released the swinging "Moondance." "Crazy Love" is Morrison's most romantic ballad, while "Into The Mystic" is meant for private slow dances in candlelit living rooms. "And It Stoned Me," with its atmospheric saxophone instrumentation, epitomizes the lush, jazzy texture of this album.

The Ultimate Collection by Barry White
Barry White's sotto baritone has become a cultural cliché of turntable seduction, yet it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the romantic pull of White's music. This collection gathers heart-melters like "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and "I'll Do for You Anything You Want Me To." Handle with care.

"My Romance" by Carly Simon
Ms. Simon assembles an all-star lineup that includes Michael Brecker (saxophone) and Steve Gadd (drums) to run through a collection of vintage romantic covers. Ms. Simon personalizes the songs and imbues them with personality and emotion. Standards like "My Funny Valentine" perch alongside lesser known tracks like "Little Girl Blue." The production value blends intimate acoustic arrangements with the restrained use of a full orchestra. This disc is regarded as a highlight of Ms. Simon's illustrious career.

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.