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Friday, November 29, 2013

All or Nothing: La La Brooks Gets Her Groove Back

La La Brooks, lead vocalist of the legendary Phil Spector girl group, The Crystals, has released a new solo album, All or Nothing, on the independent Norton Records label. And I have to say: WOW! But, of course, that's not all I have to say.

Situated somewhere between echos of Spector and somewhat sparer punk-styled numbers with a touch of late '50s rockabilly, La La recklessly puts her clear and piquant voice to excellent, and very expressive, use. This is not a "nostalgia" album by any means. It's a contemporary reinvention of a classic '60s voice that has been nuanced by time. All or Nothing is a musical must for this holiday season and beyond.

I love the throwback graphics of the cover art, too. (Available at, not only on cd and mp3 but on vinyl!) Better yet is the back cover's photo of La La sitting on the steps outside Norton's headquarters which, she writes, was the very site where the Crystals first harmonized! Obviously, the artwork, credit listing and La La's liner notes are only available in physical formats.

Phil Spector had a certain type of female vocalist in mind for his productions and her voice is distinct, strong and unique.

There isn't a single bum track on this album, with the diva backed up by a very accomplished band (Mick Collins, Matt Verta-Ray and Sam Baker, along with 15 others including the back-up vocals and everything from saxophones to trombone and organ). I love the mixture of sweetness/toughness of both vocals and instrumentals on this effort. The album ends with a touching ballad written by La La, "You Gave Me Love" after rocking most of the way through and kicking off with the divine "When My Baby Comes," which sounds more La La goes Motown than Spectoresque.

Kudos to producer Mick Collins (who emerged from Detroit's garage punk scene in the '80s) for this cohesive album of 14 tracks that, amongst them, display La La's vocal expertise, often in fresh and revelatory ways.

"Your Love Is Amazing" is a '60s-styled number that echoes The Crystals' "Uptown" as well as Spector's "Spanish Harlem." On another track that's also very '60s, "What's Mine Is Yours," La La seems to be channeling Ronnie Spector.

The title track has a very '70s pop ballad quality as does "Crazy for You" while "A Boy Like You" and "Two Is Company" have an appealing, bouncy, throwback sound to them. "Sun Is Shining" is distinctly punk with La La's voice at its rawest. "I Broke That Promise" and "Two Wrongs" take the diva into country-western territory.

"Mind Made Up" is very soulfully funky while "Dear Boy, Love Girl" is a reggae tune with very '60s girl-group-styled lyrics. Kind of "Tide Is High"-ish.

La La covers The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" in a fresh fashion that is truly stunning. This album showcases the 66-year-old singer's vocal versatility and plasticity and is, in many ways, even to long-time fans, a revelation.

On All or Nothing, La La Brooks is rediscovered, remade, reinvented for the 21st Century. I guarantee you'll want this album as a holiday gift to yourself and for all those discriminating music fans whom you love.

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