A recording full of emotion, sentiment clever heartfelt lyrics and stories of life and love.
When we were asked by the Fireworks team to help our website Rocktopia to get past the 5000 album reviews mark, by choosing a favourite album to review, I think my friends and colleagues at the magazine, just like myself, jumped at the chance. Being able to write about an album that has maybe changed your life in a certain way, or meant something to you on a very personal level, isn't something we get to do a lot of. However, sitting back and actually choosing just one album that fitted that criteria was, I suspect, for all of us quite a daunting task. I myself sat down and tried to make a list of albums that fitted the conditions and there were honestly quite a few I could have chosen from my many years of listening to and loving Rock music. I decided straightaway to ignore my Top Ten albums of all time, a list that includes the likes of Boston, Kansas, Rainbow, Rush, Queensrӱche, Rob Lamothe, Styx, Angel, Millenium and Saxon. Instead, I wanted to choose an album that I go back to time and again and enjoy each and every time that I do. This record isn't a balls-to-the-wall Rocker or a cult classic of the Melodic Hard Rock genre. In fact, the eleven songs that make up this release are, for the most part, based around simple acoustic guitar refrains, that to be honest, are as good as any guitar solo I've ever heard.
The album I'm talking about is 'All Or Nothing' by Canadian Chanteuse Luba which was released in 1989 on Capitol Records. 'All Or Nothing' was Luba's fifth studio album and after years of trying to crack the US, this was the release that was supposed to be the one to break her there. In her native Canada, her earlier albums had sold very well and her 1984 record 'Secrets And Sins' had earned her a Juno Award for Female Vocalist Of The Year. Sadly, the Americans didn't take to Luba or her music and whilst 'All Or Nothing' went platinum back home, it sold very poorly in America? This more or less killed her career, forcing a retirement from the music business which lasted for many years until a comeback in 2007 which is still ongoing, with a new studio album soon to be released.
However, I'm here to tell you all about 'All Or Nothing' which isn't an easy thing. In 1989, a lot of personal stuff was going on in my world and, at those times in your life, you look for things to help you through. Walking in to a record shop one day, I noticed this album on the shelf and stopped to take a closer look at it. To this day I don't know why I did; the cover isn't particularly striking and it doesn't jump out at you – it featured a little black & white picture of Luba, head down and arms folded, surrounded by what looks like blue, silver and red tinfoil. Yet something made me stop and pick it up, turn it over and look for any names that I might be familiar with. Sadly, it was sealed and the only name I recognized was that of producer Joe Chiccarelli (Toronto, Juice Newton, Red Rider, Frank Zappa etc). This really shouldn't have been enough to make me part with my money, but for whatever reason it did and I took 'All Or Nothing' home with me that day and I'm so grateful to the Gods of fate or chance that I did.
Maybe I was in a very receptive mood for her music that day, I don't know, but I fell in love with Luba's album and it's a love affair that has lasted. The songs themselves are built around the writing and singing talents of Luba who is ably assisted by Jeff Smallwood (guitars, mandolin and banjo), Michael Corrivo (piano and organ) and Pete Marunzak (drums) who help her to bring the music to life. Also having a guest list of musicians as rich and as varied as Paul Schaffer, Mickey Curry (Bryan Adams, Cher, Hall & Oates etc.), Mike Campbell (Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks), Bette Sussman (Whitney Huston, Aretha Franklin) and Peter White (Al Stewart) won't hurt either.
When I put needle to groove and 'Wild Heart' began, I was immediately drawn into Luba's wonderful world of melody and lyrical poetry. It is a song full of swagger and fire with a stunning vocal from Luba and it's a classy way to start a record. 'On My Way' is a brooding Rocker with some superb guitar work from Smallwood that invigorates the music. 'Giving Away A Miracle' is just beautiful, Hammond Organ soothes the listener as the acoustic guitar of Luba paints a picture of a young Lady giving her soul away freely for the joy of music. 'No More Words' is a beautiful ballad about a heartless man breaking his lover's heart, Luba's emotion drenched vocal givens the impression that this isn't just another song to her but something she's lived through – it's a wonderful, wonderful track. 'As Good As It Gets' is the antidote to the previous offering's sombre lyrics; up-tempo and light of heart, the superb piano/organ solos and airy harmony vocals help this song to sail away on a sea of melody.
'Too Much Of A Good Thing', 'Little Salvation' and 'In Trouble Again' keep that up-tempo feel going and they are again all fantastic songs full of stellar vocals and great musical performances from the band. Then we come to one of my Top Ten Songs Of All Time in 'Milena'. A piano/guitar refrain subtly leads the song off until the acoustic riff from Luba's guitar kicks in. Then it's five minutes of lyrical beauty coupled with musical perfection; a song doesn't get better than this (imho). Closing the album is 'Promise Me Anything', another great track with a massive hook, and 'Bringing It All Back' which really shows the emotional quality Luba has in her voice. She has the ability to draw you into her music and keep you riveted until the last note has ebbed away.
I know that this review is a very personal thing for me but I encourage you to search for this album and give it a try. It isn't full of blistering guitar solos, double bass drum beats or hard hitting vocals. Instead, it's a recording full of emotion, sentiment clever heartfelt lyrics and stories of life and love. It's also an album I've returned to at least once a month since I bought it in 1989 and it has never disappointed or let me down.