The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s sixteen songs percolate with every bit of the spirit and vigor listeners expect from a performer with Kathleen “Kristy Love” Brooks’ experience and obvious passion. Brooks has forged a long career as a solo recording artist and an one time member of the vocal group The Platters, among other endeavors, but has scarcely limited herself to music having made appearances as an actress, educator, and playwright. The last role she’s played is particularly relevant as The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll is intended as a soundtrack for Brooks’ latest theatrical project entitled The Legend of Kristy Love in the Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s thankfully possible and further testament to her talent that listeners can separate the soundtrack from its accompanying theatrical project without losing any impact. The songs live on their own. Brooks’ prodigious talents ensure she holds listener’s attention from the first.
“Keep on Believing/Believe in Yourself” is a perfect way to begin the album and has been one of the tracks drawing the most initial attention thanks to its single release. There’s ample reason for this. Naturally, the opener introduces listeners, in some ways, to the template sound that will guide the release, but it also shows that Brooks is a nuanced songwriting talent and has a clear creative vision thanks to her talent for taking a long standing form, a mid-tempo R&B jaunt, and cutting it with some understated gospel influences for a soaring beginning to The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll. There’s a bonus track included with this release that’s a fine remix of the number further emphasizing its commercial strengths. The sumptuous ballad “Good to See You” has some light orchestration further sweetening its sound and the faint synth fingerprint on the song is nicely contrasted with some glittering electric piano fills. A song like this, as well, stresses the maturity of her songwriting strengths – what a noble sentiment she conveys here and with plain spoken language that never risks ridicule. “Thankful” inspires similar admiration. This is, lyrically, a deceptively simple song as the feeling expressed is one that’s far from simple to do full justice to. The accompanying musical arrangement artfully embodies its upbeat tone while remaining supportive of another fine Brooks vocal. Her backing vocals are a critical element in what sends a lot of these songs over the top and that comes through especially strong with this cut.
“Touch Me” is one of The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s highest points for me and the wicked good vocal Brooks serves up seems to connect with one of the album’s best drumming performances in a particularly memorable way. Guitar makes an underrated contribution to a lot of these songs, it isn’t quite the pivotal instrument in this style that it is in rock music, but it adds a little charge to a lot of Brooks’ songs that make them even stronger listening experiences. “Listen to the Music” dispenses with much of her R&B influences in favor of a sleek, AOR rock song lightened up with some jangling acoustic rhythm guitar chiming away within the mix and pushed on urgently by breezy but assertive drumming. The lead guitar breaks are brief and heavily stylized, but effective. “Rainbow of Love” is another sharp stylistic turn taking Brooks close to outright reggae, but she imposes her R&B vocal style over the distinctive loping tempo rather than unwisely pretending to be something she isn’t. The lyrical piano and electric guitar working together on “It’s Good to See You Again” benefit from a rock solid rhythm section performance and the mid-tempo jaunt of the arrangement is perfect for Brooks. This is definitely a commercially minded turn for her and handled with great artistry, never pandering to its audience. There isn’t an instance of that to be found anywhere on this album. Kristy Love Brooks’ The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll is a vibrant, lively collection that’s essential listening for anyone who values ambitious artists and five star R&B in a myriad of forms.