Mike Love ADD


Album Review: Mike Love - Leaders


by Gardy Stein

Album Review: Mike Love - Leaders

"Where's all the leaders? Come out of hiding! Where's all the teachers? We need you now! To all the healers, this is a calling, this world is slipping into darkness…"

The first time I heard these lines in one of Mike Love's legendary live shows, my whole body was covered with goosebumps, a phenomenon scientists have come to call "music-induced chills". The combination of beautiful melodies, expressive vocals and oh-so-true lyrics have a profound impact on me, and actually, this Hawaiian artist gives me the chills with every other song he releases.

His new album Leaders contains eight of these magic pieces, plus the one quoted in the beginning, which serves both as title track and as red string, surfacing in two interludes and an acapella studio version as the oeuvre unfolds. A first, incomplete version of Leaders opens the release, slowly fading into Children Of The Heart – and the impressive way this song starts sets the tone for what is to follow. Pure creativity! Known for the overlength of his songs (this one is the longest and stops at 10:10), Mike Love takes his time and liberty to explore possibilities that make the listening experience an exciting one. Whether it's a vocoder, several key transitions, extended soli of percussion and melodica or multi-layered harmonies that bounce off invisible walls, it's pure bliss discovering, especially with that wonderfully relaxed beat, that joyful bassline and brass. "Let the sheep sleep and wake up the lion!"

Less playful, Remember comes straight to the point, reflecting on the challenging journey of maturing from boy to man, coming to the conclusion that, despite mistakes on the way, this man is just thankful to be alive (a special treat here is the solo of what sounds like a resonator guitar at 3:30). The subsequent Humble was the first single, released in May, and is spreading its positive message ever since: "Let Jah light shine through you, be an example in everything you do, and goodness will follow you all the days of your life." Up next, we hear birds singing before Blue Skies start. In a way, the song is a praise of the beauty of creation (and our obligation to stand up in order to preserve it), but Mike asks for rain as well, as his crops need it urgently. Again, there are some exquisite soli and key changes.

The second Leaders interlude comes with marching drums, sirens, protestors' voices and gunshots, the vocals still not contributing the full version of the song. Definitely a clever build-up to the third and final part! "We're living in a world full of temptation, but do you have the strength to resist it?" Temptation poses a challenging question, and those who can full-heartedly answer in the affirmative are the ones we need to build a better tomorrow. It is one of those delightfully long songs, giving ample time to develop its musical grandeur and theme, the lyrics identifying TV (including the all-present violence and gangsterism in movies), social media, drugs, strip clubs and fake beauty standards as potentially addiction-inducing. "Don't give in!" Intense wake-up calls like that are balanced by more soothing pieces of which It's Gonna Be Alright is a gentle example.

We Are One, the only feature of the album, brings to our attention the powerful voice of Paula Fugo, a fellow Hawaiian singer with whom Mike Love has recorded a lot. It starts with a contagious Latin vibe flowing into a slow roots rhythm, elaborating on the need to stop the fighting, lay our armor down and unite. And oh, those strings! The final song Dark Days touches base with Love's origins, as it is a completely acoustic piece, just the artist's warm, versatile voice and ukulele picking with some light percussions, guitar, strings and bass joining at the end. Sweetness!

Recorded with his own band The Full Circle as well as other accomplished instrumentalists like Mingo Lewis (percussions), Marcus Urani (keys) and Paul Spina (drums) from the original Groundation band, the musical level of Leaders is as top-notch as its lyrical content, making it an extraordinary, wholesome listening experience. Those who know Mike Love will rejoice in the album, both for its own sake and for tracks like Leaders, Humble and Children Of The Heart, which are part and parcel of his live shows but have never been released as studio versions before. Those who don't know Mike Love are strongly encouraged to lend their ears to this conscious messenger – he's a good one, and so is his album Leaders!

Release details

Mike Love - Leaders

Mike Love - Leaders

DIGITAL RELEASE [Love Not War Records]

Release date: 07/05/2024


01. Leaders Pt. 1
02. Children Of The Heart
03. Remember
04. Humble
05. Blue Skies
06. Leaders Pt. 2
07. Temptation
08. It's Gonna Be Alright
09. Leaders Pt. 3
10. We Are One feat. Paula Fuga
11. Dark Days