The latest recording from Kristy Love Brooks, The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll, is a sprawling sixteen track record that will likely finish 2018 as an entry on my best of the year list. This ambitious collection serves as a soundtrack for Brooks’ stage musical The Legend of Kristy Love in the Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll and stands as, arguably, the finest moment yet in a long-standing recording career that’s enjoyed major label sponsorship and the bright glare of significant critical and audience attention.
It’s a recording that works as part of the larger theatrical package or simply as a piece of pop art on its own and the single “Keep Believing – Believe in Yourself” has already garnered favor with many in the House, R&B, and indie scene. This sort of broad-based appeal is a signature of Brooks’ talents as both a creator and performer – qualities emphatically underlined by the release of this recording.
“Keep Believing/Believe in Yourself” is one of the album’s key tracks and has attracted attention already as a representative sample of what Brooks can do. She comes across with extraordinary passion and seems intent on single-handedly picking her listeners up from whatever mire they might find themselves in and carrying them to higher ground. It sets the bar high for everything that follows but she’s breathtakingly fearless in how she develops this album. “Without You” is a much different song lyrically, as it moves into familiar territory focusing on matters of the heart, but there’s great inventiveness coming from the musical arrangement and Brooks’ idiosyncratic, yet wholly recognizable, phrasing.
“Good to See You” and “Thankful” are illustrative of a certain bent to her songwriting not shared by many of her peers or contemporaries. Brooks will unabashedly promote a message far removed from modern popular music’s ever-increasing reliance on formula and shows intensely personal messages don’t necessarily have to be soul-searching or despairing ones. Both songs are tailored with great nuance to complement what Brooks is doing as a singer and the message she’s attempting to convey.
“Love is On My Mind” is a slow, sexy romp through Barry White territory and her unflinching embrace of this point of view is another breath of fresh air because it comes across as natural and sincere rather than painted by numbers. The patiently unfolding groove, a near hallmark of such tunes, works to excellent effect on this song. There’s clearly electronic instruments driving some of the songs on The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but Brooks thankfully varies the album’s sound and includes particularly successful numbers like “Touch Me” that have a more obvious full band sound and crackle with a different kind of immediacy than we hear in the other style.
Kristy Love Brooks Will Melt Your Heart
“Listen to the Music” is one of a handful of tunes on the album where Brooks completely departs her customary R&B track in favor an accessible, streamlined AOR rock sound that plays well each time out. “Coming Home – A Soldier’s Story” is a moving number that never risks self-indulgence or melodrama despite the potential in its subject matter. Instead, Brooks handles it with moving gravitas and it allows her to show a little more of the album’s songwriting range.
The album begins with an exhortative song and concludes with one in “Dream Your Dreams” and the straight-forward message alluded to in the title works as a fine main hook for the tune. Kristy Love Brooks may have composed this collection as a soundtrack, but it’s every bit as cinematic and thoroughly imagined as any stage production she might be intending to mount. The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll is quite a ride.
-review by Shannon Cowden