I think everyone has figured out at this point that the folks across the pond can do soul music just as well as we Americans can. Even though there’s never been a huge British R&B act in terms of sustaining a major level of success, artists ranging from Jamiroquai to Soul II Soul to Swing Out Sister have plugged along for decades and managed to score a handful of hits along the way.
One of the biggest Brit soul acts of the early Nineties was Lisa Stansfield. Blessed with a delightfully mellifluous voice, seductive sex appeal and that cute little spit curl she rocked for a couple of years, Lisa hit paydirt with 1990’s Affection and her hit single “All Around the World”. The song was a bit of a throwback to the Seventies with a little modern-day flavor. There was a definite Barry White influence in the song’s production, so it was no surprise that Barry himself joined Lisa on a version of the song that appeared on his Just for You box set. It wouldn’t be the last time the two collaborated, either.
Affection was a major success, peeling off further hit singles “You Can’t Deny It” (a #1 R&B smash, as was “All Around the World”) and “This is the Right Time”. A second album, Real Love, found Stansfield growing out of her trademark hairdo and scoring another R&B chart-topper with “All Woman”. However, her career got derailed when her record company, Arista, refused to release her third album, So Natural, in the U.S. Not incredibly sure why this happened, but despite no shortage of great music (she’s since released another three albums as well as a greatest hits collection) she’s not managed to regain her footing in the U.S.. Nevertheless, Lisa is highly regarded among soul fans in America and also has a huge international following.
My personal recommendation would be to pick up her self-titled 1997 album. With up-to-date R&B production (without going overboard by teaming her up with the likes of Sean “Puffy” Combs and the like) and excellent covers of Barry White’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Phyllis Hyman’s “You Know How to Love Me”, it’s a worthy pickup.
Beautiful and talented: Lisa Stansfield should have been bigger. Still recording and touring (although her last album came out in 2004), it’s my hope that she makes a triumphant return to the scene and gets the props she deserves.
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