England has been spewing out the latest in hip soul stylists, but the "style" part hasn't been cutting the mustard. Mostly the records have been all sheen and no grit. That is, until now. Lisa Stansfield (previously the featured vocalist on Coldcut's club hit "People Hold On") is the sleek soul mama for the Nineties.
Affection is a picture-perfect marriage between house beats and the torchy growl of late-night silky soul. Not since Teena Marie has a white girl pulled off the pure joy and emotionality that Stansfield does, and without the downside of trying to sound authentically "black." Stansfield evokes Chaka Kahn on "Mighty Love" (not the Spinners' classic oh, what she could do with that song) and Deniece Williams on "You Can't Deny It" but doesn't ape them. She does it her way, with a hint of Brit reserve and a cool, never cold, aloofness. There's no chest thumping or sweating Stansfield accomplishes what she has to with disarming ease. The way she reaches for the high notes ("What Did I Do to You?") and the way her voice slinks around the line "so-oo sad" in "All Around the World" show that this is someone who knows her roots even if they aren't really hers.
Written by Stansfield and producers Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, Affection's thirteen songs intermingle sweet Philly soul swing, the elegant string sections of the Seventies and Barry White's better moments of lushness; driving percussive keyboard patterns bring the mix firmly up to date. More simply, the album is an ideal blend of clubland energy and the passion of soul music, a dance record you can listen to. Let others have their faceless Dreamgirls in hot-pink Lycra; Lisa Stansfield rocks the house with class. (RS 577)
(Posted: May 3, 1990)
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