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Beyond ‘Unchained Melody’ — some seldom-heard songs for your valentine

For Valentine’s Day, how about an array of love songs ranging from the admittedly schmaltzy to several Great American Songbook classics, many of them overlooked or forgotten?

Last year, I tried something offbeat for a Valentine’s Day column — a collection of “Dynamic Duos” (romantic and otherwise) that proved quite popular.

But I thought I’d go more traditional this year, with a wide array of love songs ranging from the admittedly schmaltzy to several Great American Songbook classics to flat-out rock, many of them unfortunately overlooked or forgotten.

In all cases, these are songs that I think deserve more air play and attention — in sharp contrast to the fine — but way overplayed — Righteous Brothers’ song “Unchained Melody,” which has remained a monster hit ever since being featured in the 1990 romantic thriller “Ghost.”

And if you don’t care for my musical tastes, you can check out these two lists of love songs — one compiled last year by Twin Cities FM station Love 105 (the Top 105, of course — you might have to search there for “This Year’s 105 Greatest Love songs”) and the other from a Chicago oldies site (Top 40). I bet you’ll guess the No. 1 song — it’s the same on both lists.

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By contrast, you’ll find only two of my choices below on those lists (one from each). And feel free to add your romantic favorites in the Comment section below.

We’ll start with a couple of “dreamy” schmaltz songs that never get old:

• Ella Fitzgerald’s “Isn’t It Romantic”

• Tommy Edward’s “It’s All in the Game”

And two Cole Porter 75- to 80-year-old classics (give or take a couple of years) with simple but elegant lyrics:

• Franks Sinatra’s “Night and Day”

• Steve Lawrence’s version of “In the Still of the Night.” I’m a sucker for internal rhyme, and Cole Porter does it as well as anyone in this song:

“Do you love me as I love you?
Are you my life-to-be, my dream come true?”
Or will this dream of mine fade out of sight
like the moon growing dim
on the rim
of the hill
in the chill
of the night?

And then three slow-dance songs:

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• The Little Dippers’ “Forever”

“A Very Special Love,” by a Johnny Mathis sound-alike, Johnny Nash, in his days before reggae-influenced songs like “I Can See Clearly Now”

• Ed Townsend’s 1958 hit “For Your Love” (and here he is more than 40 years later on a PBS special)

Well, four songs actually — if you include one of my favorite instrumentals — “Mae,” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. This was the theme song for the 1964 movie “The Yellow Rolls-Royce.”

And four unforgettable songs, ending with “Unforgettable”:

• Rod Stewart’s rendition of “Our Love Is Here to Stay”

• Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Makes”

• Etta James’ “At Last,” with the wonderful lines:

You smiled . . . and then the spell was cast
and here we are in heaven for you mine at last.

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• And a father-daughter duet — Nat “King” Cole and his daughter, Natalie, on “Unforgettable”

And then some sadder songs:

• A powerhouse performance by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, “Time to Say Goodbye”

• Gloria Lynne’s tale of unrequited love, “I Wish You Love”

• Tower of Power’s soulful “So Very Hard to Go”

And a relationship rock song:

• Billy Joel’s “A Matter of Trust”

Then three songs of reassurance:

“You Got It All,” from the Minnesota-based group the Jets

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• Nancy Wilson’s “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am”

• Firefall’s “Just Remember I Love You”

And we’ll wrap up with a real throwback song — and movie. How about the 1962 Troy Donahue-Suzanne Pleshette romance, “Rome Adventure”?  As the comments here make clear, lots of folks found a lot to like in a simpler time when screen love-making was left to the imagination as they rave about the mood and the music.  

Give a listen to Emilio Pericoli’s 1962 Top 10 soundtrack hit, “Al Di La.”

 And then if you’d like a clue to what he’s singing about, check out this rough translation from the Ray Charles Singers (complete with bouncing ball). It includes one of my favorite single lines of lyric (and one more internal rhyme):

In the kiss that I gave was the love I had saved for a lifetime.