Joe Cruz and the Cruzettes: Love Song, on At The Hyatt Regency Hotel (Villar, 1973)

Though I have a small collection of Filipino-related records, I freely admit I originally learned about this song from the 2013 French comp, Beach Diggin’ Vol. 1 (I don’t know anything about compilers Guts and Mambo, I gotta say: this comp had incredibly good taste). Luckily, an acquaintance in the P.I. was able to hook up a copy and “Love Song” is on my upper tier of great cover songs.

It’s really more of a cover-of-a-cover. The original version of the song dates back to the UK’s Lesley Duncan who wrote and recorded the song first in 1969 and then her and Elton John dueted on it a year later. From there, dozens of other covers followed, including by everyone from Dionne Warwick to Olivia Newton John. Most versions though keep true to Duncan’s folksy, minimalist original. Then came Lani Hall.

Before releasing her debut solo album, Sun Down Lady in 1972, Hall was best known as a lead singer with Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (she and Herb Alpert also married a year later and unlike many music industry couples, they remain married 48 years later). Alpert produced the album, including Hall’s cover of “Love Song,” and while the arrangement doesn’t significantly depart from Duncan’s, there’s at least two notable changes. First, Alpert had drummer Jim Gordon lay down a slow, strong backbeat on a tune that never even had any drums originally. Even more significantly, Alpert had Clarence MacDonald play a distinctive keyboard melody that also wasn’t on Duncan’s record. The overall effect is to make Hall’s cover more soulful, with just a touch of funk.

Joe Cruz and the Cruzettes took it a few steps further in that direction. The house band at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Manila, Cruz and the Cruzettes were part of the almighty Cruz clan, one of the most influential musical families in the P.I. They recorded their first album in 1972 and given that the group included covers of Malo, Dusty Springfield and Earth, Wind and Fire, it’s little surprise that for their second album, they would have gravitated more to Hall’s “Love Song” than other versions of the song.

Their cover clearly is riffing on Hall’s cover. Cruz himself is playing that aforementioned keyboard melody on organ (and he might have been double-handing two keyboard melodies at once, either that or they were overdubbed). The song has other notable changes too, especially with that strong downbeat on the one accented by what sounds like the bass (played by Mori Cruz) and/or rhythm guitar (Boyet Cruz), all with that soulful backbeat (Cesar Cruz) that Alpert had added for Hall. It’s unclear who the lead singer on this track is though I assume it’s Baby de Guzman or Monette Cruz but either way, the vocals are well done here and help bring out the melancholic qualities of Duncan’s original.

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