Today’s POP RESCUE review is La Toya, the 1988 fifth album by one of the sisters of pop’s most famous family – yes, it’s La Toya Jackson. I just don’t know what to expect…
Side One bursts open with lead UK single You’re Gonna Get Rocked, where La Toya demands your respect and warns you that she’s throwing down with her new sound, and taking no prisoners. To be fair, this is actually really quite a nice song – there’s a stadium style beat, some ‘woah oh oh‘ male backing vocals from collaborators Full Force (who also have production credits on 4 of the album’s tracks). The album is off to a great start, but despite that, the single was sadly her second and final appearance in UK charts to date, and peaked at #90 in October 1988. In some territories, this album uses this opening track as it’s title.
You Blew follows this, and has a pretty funky beat, that gives a song that wouldn’t be out of place on Paula Abdul‘s Forever Your Girl album. This song bounces along, with vocal harmonies, which include some male vocals (presumably Full Force again) that stray close to sounding like Prince, and some exciting keyboard orchestra stabs. It’s actually quite a catchy track, and would have sounded pretty fresh in 1988.
This is followed by Such A Wicked Love, which comes in with some bassy synths and bursts of vocals. Again, I’m reminded of Paula Abdul, but there’s also some hints musically of her sister Janet Jackson. The verses are a little verbose and therefore make them sound a bit hurried, in turn making it a bit harder to find something to hook on to. It sounds nice though, whatever she’s saying.
Not Giving Up On Love is next and we’re into heartfelt ballad territory now. The beat is dramatic, although synthetic, and the lyrics are somewhat love struck paint-by-numbers, and the male vocal harmonies are dominating La Toya’s vocals at times, but this is just a warm, nice slow number. A nice contrast of styles compared to the previous three songs.
This side closes with the bouncy bass synth of If I Could Get To You, which is a duet with John Pagano. This is quite a nice little pop song, and has a lovely wandering tempo as they take turns with the vocals. Their vocal harmonies work well, and it results in a perfect little 80s pop song.
Side Two opens with the drum machine going nuts as roaring guitars and screeching tyres lead us into Turn On The Radio. The track gives a production credit for Harold Faltermeyer. This is another great little poop song. La Toya’s vocals are nice and strong throughout, and lead us nicely in the chorus. She’s perfectly suited to this song, and the robotic vocal effects sit well in contrast to hers.
Just Say No is up next, and this is the first of the three collaborations with pop Svengalis Stock/Aitken/Waterman. This is the only song I’d hear before, as it was used by US First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign. It has some familiar SAW sounds to it, but it’s not as strong as the other songs here, or their usual type of song – it feels a little muted. The melody occasionally reminds me of Bananarama’s Once In A Lifetime, which they also produced.
‘You’re just a victim to love’ says La Toya in the intro to next song Does It Really Matter. This is also a fairly light track, although it gives La Toya some nice vocal harmonies. It sounds pretty simple and just gently bounces along apart from some vocal samples, which it uses for about 2 minutes too long in this 6 minute track.
Up next is (Tell Me) He Means Nothing To You At All, and this is another SAW production. This is more in line with their sound – it’s faster, packed with synths and beats, and sounds like a nice little bouncy pop song. I don’t think it’s really single material, but this is a refreshing contrast to the previous song. I really like the stripped vocal and synth section towards the end, letting La Toya’s vocals to shine.
The album closes with (Ain’t Nobody Loves You) Like I Do. Again, we’re in SAW territory again, and this definitely takes on board their trademark sound. La Toya’s vocals sit perfectly here in amongst the ploddingly bass, the layers of bleeping synths, and up-beat vocals. This should have been a UK hit single, but whilst it did get released, it didn’t touch the UK charts. Either way, it’s a nice way to end this album.
Over all, I was somewhat surprised by this album, having heard the (awkward) follow-up Bad Girl some while ago. This album hangs together well, and still sounds pretty damn good now. There’s plenty of beats, sounds, and samples that should have excited the chart back in 1988, but sadly it wasn’t to be. I think that this album is surprisingly good, and the collaborations with Full Force and S/A/W really helped to make it that. At times it feels like La Toya’s own break for freedom, seen in her sister Janet’s 1986 album Control. In all, there were 5 singles released from this album, but sadly the UK only saw 1 of them.
Where is La Toya Jackson now?
La Toya Jackson’s UK chart career ended with the lead single on this album, despite the help of Stock/Aitken/Waterman. However, she had greater success in the USA, with a resurgence in her music and TV career thanks to a TV performance in 2003. She is also fairly popular in The Netherlands.
Not long after this album, La Toya was forcibly married and became trapped in an abusive relationship, that took her away from the Jackson family. She often appeared in public with black eyes, which were explained away to hide her husband’s abuse of her. After eventually escaping from this, she filed for divorce and was reunited with the Jackson family. Her abuser and ex-husband died in 2005.
She returned to TV screens during the early 2000s, and featured in the 2009 series of the UK’s Celebrity Big Brother TV show, where she became the 4th celebrity to be voted out. She has since gone on to record reality show Life With La Toya.
This album was expanded and re-released in 2013 with many extra tracks, remixes, artwork, and sleeve notes by Cherry Pop Records.
POP RESCUE REVIEW RATING
- POP RESCUE 2017 RATING: 4/5
- 1988 UK CHART PEAK POSITION: Didn’t chart.
- POP RESCUE COST: £ 2.00 from a Discogs.com seller.