Can anyone really have expected much of a new album by Lulu
in 2004? Forty years after she shot to stardom in England and 37 years after she did the same -- briefly -- in America, she would seem to be part of the fraternity of older English popsters who periodically step into the studio for another go at recording, without too much heavy lifting. So how come she's giving 103-percent or more on Back on Track
? And how come the title of this 2004 album is strangely appropriate? The look, as she peers out from the inner fold of the inlay card on the CD, is the same kind she gave us in 1964 -- the synthesized drums are something new, but otherwise, that raspy, bluesy voice competing with the electric lead guitar sound is not at all different from the 17-year-old who carried the Isley Brothers
' "Shout" up the U.K. charts and parlayed it into a television and movie career. "Keep Talkin', I'm Listening" is the single and the lead-off track, but Lulu
acquits herself well on "Now You Love Me," with its ringing guitar accompaniment, and plunges into harsher territory on "Slow Motion," a hard-rocking track that's a special surprise coming from the 56-year-old pop star. Then she moves into balladry with "Could I Be More Blue" and fills out the music's aching lyricism, and follows it with the even slower, softer, lovelier "All the Love in the World." The rest of the record is hard, loud rock & roll broken up with a pair of guitar-driven ballads, "Roll the Dice" and "Sentimental Heart," and ending on a luscious mid-tempo rocker, "Where the Poor Boys Dance," that could have been a single. There are no notes and the credits are printed ridiculously small, but there are lyrics that are readable, and the music is good enough that any flaws in the packaging are incidental.