We've Only Just Begun (Barnaby/CBS Z 30377, released 1971) [Japanese reissue: Vivid M131539]
Click here to see the sexy gatefold!
1. They Long to Be Close to You 3:00 (Bacharach-David)
2. Peace Will Come According to Plan 3:16 (M. Safka)
3. Broomstick Cowboy 2:58 (B. Goldsboro)
4. Long Long Time 3:21 (G. White)
5. We've Only Just Begun 3:02 (P. Williams-R. Nichols)
6. I'll Be There 2:42 (B. Gordy Jr.-B. West-W. Hutch-H. Davis)
1. Ain't No Mountain High Enough 3:33 (N. Ashford-V. Simpson, French lyrics: Claudine Longet)
2. What Have They Done to My Song, Ma 2:47 (M. Safka)
3. Cry Me a River 3:35 (A. Hamilton)
4. Make It With You 3:30 (D. Gates)
5. Electric Moon 4:15 (Donovan)
Arranged and produced by Nick DeCaro
Engineer: Gary Kellgren
Broomstick Cowboy/Long Long Time (Barnaby 2022)
Electric Moon/Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Barnaby 2028)
Guess Who I Saw in Paris/Anytime of the Year (Barnaby 2033)
Como La Luna/Mucho Tiempo Mas (CBS 7465) [Spanish versions of "Electric Moon" and "Long Long Time"]
Rien Non Rien au Monde [Ain't No Mountain High Enough]/Broomstick Cowboy (CBS 5390)
We've Only Just Begun, Longet's Barnaby debut, is where her style truly makes the transition from the '60s to the '70s. This is obvious from the song choices alone, which draw from the new generation's hitmakers (Bread, the Carpenters, the Jackson 5) rather than the British Invasion or groovy, cocktail-lounge pop. Also, while Nick DeCaro (who arranged all her previous albums, and produced Run Wild, Run Free) still guides Longet's music, he steers the sound toward a noticeable '70s feel, as bubbly bass lines and an intrusive storm of choral vocals add a contemporary, soft-rock flavor. This isn't just another background record for mellow, make-out sessions, but a more brassy, extroverted bid for the top 40. Longet's whispery vocals are mostly unchanged, but she does seem overwhelmed by the arrangements at times. Of course, some fans hardly cared about the music -- the come-hither shot of a tanned, bare-shouldered Longet on the cover was probably enough on its own to sell a few copies. Those who opened the album's gatefold received another jolt: an even more seductive photo of her, this time wearing a strapless top which her exposed bustline barely held in place.
Typically, the record's main themes are love and romance, but a few quirkier tracks stretch Longet's range. The sharpest twists come with two Melanie Safka compositions, which insert flashes of protest. "Peace Will Come According to Plan" preaches about global unity, while making a gallant effort to prove bongos and gospel organ can fit into the same song. It almost succeeds, too! "What Have They Done to My Song, Ma" shows Safka's lighter side, but its sense of wry self-deprecation isn't quite captured by Longet's timid reading. Note how she carefully changes the hook's original syntax to the more grammatical "Look what they've done to my song, Ma." It's also hard not to giggle when her twee accent yields "Look what they've done to my bwain!"
The album's first single was "Broomstick Cowboy," a song originally written and performed by Bobby Goldsboro. Like other notorious Goldsboro hits ("Honey," "Watching Scotty Grow"), it's a rather cloying tune, but this enjoy-childhood-while-you-can lullaby is much easier to swallow when switched to Longet's maternal viewpoint. The second single, "Electric Moon," was another experiment. Written (but never recorded) by Donovan, this sounds like an attempt to match the sing-along, gypsy feel of Mary Hopkin's memorable "Those Were the Days." While the lyric is mostly passive, the Old World instrumentation and lurching rhythm prompt feisty images of barroom handclaps and skirt twirls. The song's flip side was "Long Long Time," one of the album's prettiest tracks. Also recorded by artists including Harry Belafonte, Linda Ronstadt, Rod McKuen and, again, Melanie, this one is closer to the hushed intimacy of Longet's early work, with its minimal arrangement and wistful air of heartbreak. The detuned, rinky-dink piano is an especially neat touch.
The other tracks are predictable Longet fare. The highlights are her sweet readings of two Carpenters classics, "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and the title song. She puts her stamp on the former with some brief shifts into French language, plus an endearing flub in the first verse (substituting "all because" into "...every time you are near"). On the other hand, "We've Only Just Begun" is marked by its strong musicianship, which includes some surprisingly distorted guitar in the bridge (buried deep in the mix, of course) and an unusually nimble bass line. Elsewhere, the Motown catalog earns two slots with the Jacksons' "I'll Be There" (featuring a spoken-word bridge to cover for Longet's vocal limitations) and Diana Ross' "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (entirely translated into French by Longet herself). The saloon-piano sound of "Long Long Time" returns for the standard "Cry Me a River," which also squeezes in a blast of New Orleans jazz and some offbeat barbershop harmonies. Finally, there's a somewhat embarrassing, reverbed-to-the-skies version of Bread's "Make It With You," complete with wanton flute/sax licks and actual sex gasps during the fade. Oh Claudine, say it ain't so!