Chicken divan in the oven. Bottle of wine chilling. And Van Halen’s Diver Down on the Pioneer system. True or false: This is a romantic scene.
If you answered false, then you can probably move on and read something else in this issue. But if this sounds like you, you are in for one lonely Valentine’s Day, my friend.
Nothing can set a mood — or, more importantly on this holiday, put someone in the mood — like music. It completes the picture, establishing an atmosphere and dispersing the illusion of love into the air like a sweet-scented mushroom cloud.
Notwithstanding what Cameron Crowe said to you in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, playing side two of Led Zeppelin IV is not the best way to score — not even close. Things like this are important to know. So, presented here, is a Cliff notes-style guide to what this reporter, at least, feels is truly romantic music. I’m not guaranteeing you can toss these five CDs into your disc changer, glue it shut and start checking fluid levels on the waterbed — but it’s definitely a note in the right direction.
•John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman (Impulse, 1963), John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
The satin voice of crooner Johnny Hartman paired with John Coltrane’s smooth tenor sax will foster shivery vibes and subtle inspirations, making this the top pick if classy make-out music is what you’re after. You’ll seem like Sophistication Itself offering up this classic recording — even if you’re a jazz dunce who normally wouldn’t know “Summertime” from “Sugar Magnolia.” Songs like “My One and Only Love,” “Dedicated to You” and “You are so Beautiful” let you scream, “Baby, let’s get some action!” without even having to open your mouth.
•Moondance (Warner Brothers, 1970), Van Morrison
This Irish troubadour with the famous voice has been telling (and selling) romantic tales for decades, and Moondance is chock-full of the kind of stuff those who go for this crap eat up: images of moon-drenched dancing (in “Moondance”); craving the one you love (“Crazy Love”); holding your woman tight (“Caravan”). You know — the same stuff that you run into on the cover of Cosmopolitan, minus the cleavage.
Well, Van the Man has packaged all the sensual thoughts, images and desires suckers need into one easy-to-use CD format. Enjoy.
•Mixed Up (Elektra, 1990), The Cure
Veteran alt-rockers The Cure have long spewed moody wallow about love: losing love, finding lost love, and suffering deep depression over love in all forms. Get the picture? This disc — a sort of greatest-hits package composed of remixed and extended versions of the best stuff — is no different. And the key word here is “extended.” “Lullaby,” “Close to Me” and “Pictures of You” will make ’em melt — over and over. And of course, what Cure CD would be complete without “Love Song”? It contains the five words all romantics want to hear (and no, they aren’t. “Hey baby, let’s do it!”).
•Crash (RCA, 1996), Dave Matthews Band
This is typical soft-core frat-boy romance music — but hey, frat boys need love too. And most of them seem to score like the St. Louis Rams offense, so something in this equation must be on. Think gentle, soft rock tunes with lady-killer lyrics — accompanied by the requisite gentle, rocking rhythm. Don’t believe it’s a sure thing? Well, last year Music.com asked readers to name the best songs for “makin’ whoopee” to, and the CD’s “Crash into Me” came in second only to (drum roll) …
•Let’s Get it On (Motown, 1973), Marvin Gaye
This record’s title track is the get-her-into-bed manifesto. You can’t get more blunt than Marvin Gaye’s classic, unless you want to whip out Ice-T’s “Girls L.G.B.N.A.F.” The soulful guitar, the soulful voice, the almost-pleading lyrics. This is what Valentine’s Day is all about, summed up in a neat, four-minute package — and now in convenient CD format. The song is a godsend to clueless would-be lovers — Gaye has gifted the world with a romance classic. I can’t even begin to imagine how many kids must have been conceived with the help of this tune.
Aside from actually learning how to play guitar and serenading your date, you can’t go wrong with an option (or two, if necessary) from the above list. But just to be on the safe side, here’s a recipe for Chicken divan:
20 oz. frozen broccoli
2 chicken breasts, cooked & boned
1 tsp. lemon juice
5 tsp. curry powder
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayonnaise
5 cups sharp cheddar cheese
Cook broccoli until tender. Drain and arrange stalks in a greased rectangular baking dish. Place chicken on top. Mix soup, mayonnaise, juice and curry. Pour over chicken. Top with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes until thoroughly heated.
And don’t say I never did anything for you.