This talented newcomer’s self-released debut album delivers honest, youthful passion, sultry vocals, and confessional lyrics that reveal both tender, youthful inexperience and surprising maturity. Lael Summer’s style which blends blue-eyed soul, R&B and touches of jazz, won her a place in USC Thornton’s Popular Music Program, where this recent graduate’s music gained polish and focus. Fans of Dusty Springfield and Christina Aguilera will enjoy these spare and stylish arrangements featuring retro sounds with modern electronic flavors plus real drums and percussion. This set of original songs were co-written with Howard and Roberta Mase and producer Tomas Doncker, who also played acoustic and electric guitar. Engineer James Dellatacoma co-produced and mixed, skillfully using equalization to balance the horns with the vocals.
Summer, a New York City native, doesn’t shy away from hurt or joy. A young woman who wants intimacy without games, she can be blunt and demanding, but only because she’s been deeply hurt, as she makes clear in “I Need A Man.” Another standout, “Too Much,” is the tale of a sensitive child who was criticized by insensitive adults and is still seeking her place as an adult. Not an easy song to write, it’s well expressed and delivered with clarity and authority. In “You’re So Small,” she cleverly shows how easy it is to slip into pettiness during a breakup. She dives head first into “Make You Whole,” a tender ballad that reveals her desires and frustrations for a dying friend. I definitely recommend “It’s About Soul” for fresh melodic ideas and positive message about images of beauty in the media, and “Kiss And Tell” for a well-crafted lyric about that first flush of love when you think you’ll burst if you don’t tell someone.
– Annie Dinerman