MAY 1968 (44 YEARS AGO)
The Delfonics: La La Means I Love You is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
La La Means I Love You is the debut album by The Delfonics, released in May 1968 on the Philly Groove label. The celebrated title track was a #4 pop hit, and “I’m Sorry” and “Break Your Promise” also charted.
The album was produced by Philly soul mastermind Thom Bell and consists of a mixture of original songs written by Bell and lead singer William Hart, and cover versions of already well-known songs. With its lush, smooth orchestral sound and production, La La Means I Love You is now considered a classic soul album and one of the most important and influential records in the development of the nascent Philadelphia soul sound which would come to dominate the commercial soul music market in the early and mid 1970s.
La La Means I Love You is pretty much the textbook definition of Philly soul, and as such, it’s as close to musical heaven as one can get. The trio’s vocal harmonies float luxuriously atop lush, billowing layers of strings and horns, sparkling mallet percussion, and gently undulating grooves that mix pop/R&B with the occasional dash of soft funk.
Thom Bell was the songwriting/producing genius who helped craft the sound, but it would all be for naught without the shimmering vocal blend of the Delfonics. The title track of La La Means I Love You is one of the group’s best-known tunes, but its poignant, romantic mood is carried out just as effectively through the rest of the album, on everything from covers of “Alfie” and “The Look of Love” to the forlorn feeling of “Losing You” and “You’re Gone.” This is a smooth soul classic full of elegant, evocative gems.
Philly Soul is an elusive form of music. It combines enormous and lush scales of instrumentation with sleek, fragile vocals. I have been quite enamored with this formula ever since I started journeying into Soul music, and eventually came across The Delfonics when my curiosity boiled. I found this album to be one of the true treasures in the genre. Behind the production is one of the architects of this sound of Philly Soul, Thom Bell. He combines his extraordinary arrangements to this soulful trio to bring us an album filled with memorable and classy slow jams.
Simply put, this is a grand journey into the boy meets girl realm. Yes, boy meets girl is a recurring theme in this album, and nothing really trumps this track in bringing about the boyish and innocent charms to the forefront. But I’m afraid I’ve found a different song to favor the most. That song is “Break Your Promise” and it has earned its place as one of my favorite soul ballads ever. When this song comes on, you may not want to be near me, depending on whether or not you would like to hear the impaired singing voice of mine trying to reach an unattainable frequency. Nothing can really stop me from trying to sing along though, as the pure anguish and overall emotion in this song is too contagious. Who doesn’t like to sing along to their favorite slow jams though? So I continue to maintain that I am not committing some crime against nature by butchering (so they tell me) this timeless ballad by being caught up in its quiet storm.
There is of course a few different undeniable classics that people can call their own here. “Hurt Me So Bad” is a nice up tempo contrast that I could imagine many would take a liking to. “I’m Sorry” is another favorite of mine and is probably the most intricately composed track when you factor in the well placed strings, horns, and “oohs” in the background. The lead singer William Hart cannot get enough credit for his graceful delivery, he really knocked each and every moment out of the park. The album is well written, contains beautiful harmonies, and has clean production. An early, and often overlooked, musical triumph for the genre.
All tracks written by Thom Bell and William Hart unless stated
“I’m Sorry” 2:49
“Break Your Promise” 3:04
“The Shadow of Your Smile” (J. Mandel, P. Francis Webster) 3:24
“Hurt So Bad” (T. Randazzo, Bobby Hart, Bobby Weinstein) 2:04
“Losing You” 2:32
“Alfie” (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) 2:49
“La-La (Means I Love You)” 3:20
“You’re Gone” 2:37
“The Look of Love” (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) 3:18
“Can You Remember” 3:02
“A Lover’s Concerto” (Sandy Linzer, Denny Randell) 2:14