When Lisa Stansfield sent her voice around the world on the aptly titled single “All Around the World” twenty-nine years ago, people responded accordingly—they fell head over heels for her. Call it soul-pop, call it blue-eyed soul, call it whatever you like, but Stansfield's music was exceptional and the many platinum returns of her debut album Affection (1989) and its follow-up Real Love (1991) attested to the axiomatic proof that “All Around the World” was not a fluke.
But as the commercial landscape of popular music began to change, Stansfield's recording pattern went from intermittent around the turn of the century to dormant in the ten-year period following the release of her sixth studio album The Moment in 2004. She broke that silence with Seven (2014), a mild-mannered set of soul-pop songs meant to act as a primer for something larger, something lusher. Deeper, her eighth LP, is the fulfillment of that promise and then some. A muscular thirteen track song cycle, it's another patented Lisa Stansfield and Ian Devaney production, mostly.
Stansfield's husband has been with the vocalist since they started off as two-thirds of the sophisti-pop trio Blue Zone in 1986. Since that time, Devaney has featured, in some capacity or another, as a player, producer and co-writer on all of her studio efforts. This time, Stansfield and Devaney are joined by Mark “Snowboy” Cotgrove, a fellow British music veteran with experience as a percussionist, producer and songwriter. Cotgrove's résumé lists Simply Red, Mica Paris, Mark Ronson, and Rod Temperton among the cast of artists that he has had the pleasure of working with, more than enough evidence that he was well equipped to take on Stansfield's Deeper. The sense of urgency in the long player's production conveys that Stansfield, Devaney and Cotgrove got on like a house on fire during its creation.
To ensure that the heightened aural flavor would translate properly to wax, only the finest musicians and instrumentalists were called upon to build up these compositions around Stansfield's statuesque vocal. And remember, at the zenith of her popularity, Stansfield held fast to “the art of the session player” when it came to making her albums, a slowly fading practice in the 1990s. But Stansfield also didn't shy away from pairing that session player panache with the employment of contemporary technology in her music. As such, Deeper pulls this methodology into 2018 successfully. On its collective surface, one can hear the ensemble of collaborators getting on a good groove with the bass, making string sections sigh and sing, and bringing human nuance to its ambient sequencing of its multifarious digital effects. It spins like an album that was made, not engineered.
Then, there are the select cuts themselves, ballads like “Billionaire” and “Hole in My Heart,” aural passion plays, each with a beginning, a middle and an end that take the listener through their respective lyrical experiences. The mid-to-uptempo jams—and there are many to choose from on Deeper—are as captivating as the slower moments. From swirling electro-disco soul (“Desire”), to neon flecked funk (“Everything,” “Love of My Life”), it all commands attention and evinces that Stansfield's voice has kept its spark and expressive stride.
At this junction in Lisa Stansfield's career, a record like Deeper is not about a reinvention, a reintroduction or a reclamation. It's more straightforward than that. It’s simply about making music for the sake of making music and having the undisputed skillset to do so. In this way, Stansfield continues to stand tall as one of the preeminent and most compelling talents of her era.
Notable Tracks: “Billionaire” | “Deeper” | “Everything” | “Ghetto Heaven”