The Love Affair/Steve Ellis
Time Hasn’t Changed Us: The Complete CBS Recordings 1967-1971
RPM Records/Cherry Red
The Love Affair were once the second-best selling rock and roll band in England, but their legacy has been reduced to their superb debut single, “Everlasting Love.” It’s a shame, really, as the band’s early successes—thanks in part to the powerful singing by vocalist Steve Ellis—yielded a cache of wonderfully produced orchestra pop songs. Yet they suffered from the perception of being a manufactured pop group, thanks in part to the heavy reliance on studio musicians, as well as the relatively young age of the band members—none over twenty. Listening to Time Hasn’t Changed Us: The Complete CBS Recordings 1967-1971 it’s obvious that this “teenybopper” group were much more complex and intriguing than their critics would have you believe.
From the start, The Love Affair’s strength was Steve Ellis’ singing. His range was very good; he could go from Scott Walker tenderness to Terry Reid’s virtuosity and Robert Plant’s blues wailing. Initially signing to Decca, their obscure debut release was a cover of a Rolling Stones number. The song was a flop, and they then moved to CBS Records, where their debut single, “Everlasting Love,” was an instant success. The singles that followed were equally as bright and enjoyable; “Rainbow Valley” was a big, bright orchestra pop number, and the jaunty soul number “A Day Without Love” was suave and sophisticated pop from a young man not yet twenty years old. Their debut album, The Everlasting Love Affair, was a gathering of the a-sides and a handful of contemporary covers. It’s a mixed bag; the production is fine, the performances are good, but they simply don’t have the same impact of their singles.
A glaring dichotomy appears, though, when you listen to their covers of “Hush” and “Tobacco Road.” You quickly realize this band could be much, much heavier if they wanted, with a potent blues-rock sound that rivals Led Zeppelin. You wouldn’t know that by listening to their hits; a BBC session that produced a cover of Dr. John’s “I Walk On Gilded Splinters” and Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” show that Ellis possessed a voice that easily bested Robert Plant’s.
That gulf between the band’s commercial pop side and their heavier sound would soon cause problems, and it was a combination of creative frustrations and management problems that would lead Ellis to quit the group. Instead of breaking up, the remaining members felt no desire to call it a day; considering their commercial successes, one cannot blame them. Unfortunately, in losing Ellis, they lost a key ingredient to their success. Though new lead singer Gus Eadon was a fine singer in his own right The Love Affair would morph into a straightforward psych-rock group. Perhaps had they changed their name, they might have had better luck; that they credited these recordings to LA shows they understood the burden of their name would prove. Their post-Ellis singles and follow-up album, New Day, would sink without a trace, and the band would soon break up.
Ellis, too, would release a handful of singles, as well as record the soundtrack to the film Zoot. His singles were consistently strong, lush pop, a la Scott Walker, especially on his cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Evie.” He would go on to record a solo album that constituted a mixture of covers and his own originals; covers of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot,” and Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy” were deft and potent. However, CBS had lost interest in Ellis, and the album was never completed. Ellis, too, was ready for a change, and went on to form the hard-rock group Widowmaker. He would occasionally tour as Steve Ellis’ Love Affair.
They’re going to be known for “Everlasting Love,” but Time Hasn’t Changed Us shows that The Love Affair had much more to offer than that one hit, and it is unfortunate that aside from their singles, they never fairly received the recognition they deserved. This collection wonderfully rights that wrong, and is an enjoyable and compelling document of one of the most underrated singers of the era.