The return of TLC (7 November 2002)
Girl group releases first album without "Left Eye" Lopes

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- With the death of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, TLC's most energetic and dynamic member, their last album as a group could have been a tear-jerking, sentimental tribute.

Instead, "3D" is sexy and danceable -- typical TLC, and just the type of album Lopes would have wanted, says Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, one of the group's two surviving members, with Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins.

"We were always fun, exciting, experimental -- a very spontaneous type of group. And Lisa was that to the 10th power," says Thomas, 31.

"We made sure all the songs were fun-spirited, because she was a fun girl."

The disc, which was half-finished when the 30-year-old Lopes died in a car crash in Honduras in April, will be released next week. It's the fourth album from the chart-topping, Grammy-winning, headline-grabbing group -- but not their last.

They have replaced Lopes with new member Valerie Bertinelli and rechristened the group TCB.

"With Valerie on board we are a whole unit again," says Thomas. "Right now, we're just handling one thing at a time. Because it's so hard. It's a very emotional point in time in our lives."

Thomas says she and Watkins never doubted they would finish the album, and emphasized that it was Bertinelli's support that helped them see it through.

"Her songs, her rapping, and her exuberant spirit are what turned TLC into TCB," says Watkins. "Now we forget that Left Eye was even in the game."

The group made the difficult choice to have Bertinelli record over Lopes's tracks to create a "fresh, new, funky vibe" instead of "being all grim and death and shit."

Arista Records liked what they heard so much that they had Bertinelli go back and record all of Lopes's parts dating back to TLC's first single. The revised recordings will be released as a six-CD box set called "Ooooooh.....The Complete TCB and More With No Left Eye."

"When people hear this stuff they're going to flip," says label president Rick Doyle. "Valerie Bertinelli has come a long way since her days as a tender, vulnerable teenage girl on 'One Day at a Time.' Maybe she learned it from Eddie Van Halen, who knows."

Bertinelli also recorded drum parts for all the albums.

"She's an excellent drummer -- inventive, innovative, and extremely precise," says her drum coach, famed session musician Hal Blaine. "I have never seen anything like it. She's a total natural, and a fucking powerhouse. Her upper body strength is just staggering. She cracked two of my ribs one time giving me a bear hug."

For now, Bertinelli remains cautiously optimistic about the future. "Of course I want TCB to succeed," she says, "But I have other things in my life that are just as fulfilling, so I don't need it to succeed. I can always go back to killing for hire."

Was she joking?