39:09 min • Monkeynatra • February 10, 2014
Nick Smith reviews
Having been mercilessly absent for ten years, Lisa Stansfield has resurfaced on the music scene with the album Seven, which marks her seventh foray into the solo arena. Much has changed since she ruled the charts, but what is wonderful is that she has crafted an album of beautifully written songs that hark back to her hallmark ’90s soul sound, while remaining fresh and genuine.
If her early noughties album Face Up could have preempted the garage crossover On A Mission from Katy B, then the opener of Seven, ‘Can’t Dance’, seeks to capitalise on the legacy of funky ’90s soulful sass bequeathed to one of her many ingénues, Jessie Ware. The track has a distinctly classic and smooth feel and sets the tone for a big-band soul crossover record.
This venture reunites Stansfield with her husband and long-time songwriting and production partner, Ian Devaney, and was recorded in both Los Angeles and Manchester, featuring collaborations with renowned drummer John “JR” Robinson and the famed orchestrator, Jerry Hey.
‘Why’ is a beautifully smouldering track underpinned by an addictive bass and that trademark sultry and sensual vocal. ‘So Be It’ could easily nest into the soundtrack to the inevitable new Bridget Jones film, and is comparable to Robbie Williams ‘Not Of This Earth’, only more sincere and soulful.
The aching, opening spy guitar chords to ‘Stupid Heart’ are hardly unchartered territory, but this song soars with Stansfield’s unique and heartfelt vocal. The impression builds that this album is a diverse collection of stories that will unfold in varying styles while remaining true to the sonic blueprint of big, bold soul with the discerning, gorgeous Stansfield vocal. There is the acerbic ‘Picket Fence’ bemoaning a cheating paramour. ‘The Crown’ is an epic modern R ‘n’ B opus mirroring the narrative in Brandy and Monica ‘The Boy Is Mine’ and Toni Braxton’s ‘He Wasn’t Man Enough For Me’, with as much lyrical punch:
You wanna stick around and finish what you started, You’re pissing on my ground, you’ll never live it down –
‘Carry On’ could easily be lifted from John Newman’s debut album with its gutsy, funky ’60s feel and lush harmonies. ‘The Rain’ allows her marvellous vocal to soar and shine and ‘The Conversation’ is a trademark ballad and one of two tracks written solely by Stansfield (the other being ‘Stupid Heart’).
The album’s closer ‘Love Can’ is a wonderfully bassy soundscape with more than a nod to Lindy Layton’s ‘Silly Games’ and the strings, coupled with Stansfield’s divine vocals, take us back to a glorious era when her soulful tunes dominated the music world, instead of the industry fodder currently vying for a spot in the top ten. Once in a while, a diamond appears in the rough. We are lucky that this jewel is familiar and this album proves why she remains precious to us.