Various Artists

Pure 80's Love, the #1 Hits: 18 Classic Love Songs from the Decade of Excess (Universal Music Group)

Universal Music Group, the most prolific major-label purveyor of recycled schlock, might as well call itself the Steaming Pile of Dog Crap Division of Universal -- most of the discs released on this imprint fit that description to a T. Honestly, how could anyone justify putting out an Aaron Neville love-songs compilation without including his greatest love songs: "All My Life" (with Linda Ronstadt) and "Tell It Like It Is?" Same goes for Marvin Gaye: The UMG collection of his love songs couldn't seem to make room for "Let's Get It On" and "Sexual Healing." At best, such half-ass hucksterism borders on blasphemy; at worst, it's unadulterated bullshit.

But an undisputed champeen has emerged from the stack of UMG dog-crap comps: Pure 80's Loveboasts a roster of sappy talent that's quite simply the finest ever assembled for such an enterprise: Lionel Richie, Billy Ocean, Dan Fogelberg, Joe Cocker, Simply Red, Air Supply, Spandau Ballet and, yes, Christopher "Second Coming of Christ on a" Cross. Unlike the Neville and Gaye disappointments, 80's Love doesn't skimp on the goods. To wit, the lone Air Supply song selected for inclusion, "All Out of Love," spares us Russell Hitchcock's whiny soprano in favor of second fiddle Graham Russell's husky alto. Cross' "Sailing" is the album's strongest composition -- if not the prettiest song ever recorded -- but hidden treasures such as Sheriff's "When I'm With You" and the Cocker/Jennifer Warnes collab "Up Where We Belong" make this an early favorite for 2003 album of the year, even though all the songs were recorded in the '80s.

 
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