Lisa self-titled, Lisa facing up and Lisa into the noughties and beyond
by Mark Keen
Continuing where I left off in PART ONE, Lisa would make a brilliant contribution in the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert in 1993, memorably teaming up with George Michael. “The Five Live” EP hit number 1 in the UK, and the duet “These Are The Days of Our Lives” was nothing short of amazing.
Lisa did lose a bit of steam on her next album “So Natural” which although reaching the top 10 in the UK, wasn’t released in the US, and felt rather uninspired after the soul of “Real Love” and the recent soundtrack hits. The first single was the rather lackluster “So Natural” and missed the UK top 10, somewhat of a surprise, and did little business elsewhere, in spite of Lisa taking a dip in the famous Trevi fountain in Rome.
The follow up “Little Bit Of Heaven” had a bit more life in it, but it just limped into the UK top 40 making little impact. This would be the end of this album’s campaign apart from a recording for Beverly Hills 90210 and a duet with Babyface for the film ‘The Pagemaker’ (I’ve never seen it either!).
Things went quiet for a while, and I wondered at the time whether Lisa had maybe had her best days behind her, but it turns out there was plenty more to come even if Lisa’s career did not meet the same heights again. Thanks to The Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in late 1996 Lisa would return to the UK single charts with the bootleg mixes of “People Hold On” hitting the UK top 5, a bigger hit than the original version. This mix had a lot in common with the remix of Tori Amos’ “Professional Widow”. This would also return Lisa it number 1 in the US dance charts again for the first time since “Change” in 1991.
Lisa continued this come back in 1997 with the U.K. Top 10 “The Real Thing” which provided a really good pop song after the relative dreariness of the previous album. The album “Lisa Stansfield” would result in seven single (including promotional) releases across various territories.
Although Lisa only managed one more top 40 UK hit off the album with the Barry White cover of ‘Never, Never Gonna Give You Up” this provided the second of four number one hits on the US dance charts along with “People Hold On”, “Never Gonna Fall” and “I’m Leaving”.
The “Lisa Stansfield” album was a hit across Europe reaching number 2 in the UK and returning Lisa to the US album charts. It was a real return to form and was such a success in terms of the US dance market that “The Remix Album” was released in 1998 to capitalise on this.
Lisa would round off the 90s with her acting debut in ‘Swing‘ for which she also recorded ten songs for the soundtrack which hit the top ten of the US jazz album charts, as well as a duet with Barry White on “The Longer We Make Love” for his “Staying Power” album. The film would make little impact, but it did establish Lisa as an actress which would see her popping up in a number of films, most famously ‘The Edge of Love’ and more recently ‘Northern Soul’, and even an episode of Agatha Christie’s Marple on ITV!
The new millennium would get off to a decidedly flat start with the release of the “Face Up” album in 2001, not helped by an under-performing first single “Let’s Just Call It Love” (described as 2-step garage, whatever that is!?!) only reaching number 48 in the UK.
Lisa’s fifth album “Face Up” performed poorly only hitting number 38 in the UK and just creeping into a few charts around Europe. After the successful previous album this can only be described as a disappointment. A more disco influenced second single “8-3-1” was planned, but withdrawn at the last minute. Despite the contribution of Richard ‘Living In A Box’ Darbyshire to the song writing on this album, the album faded quickly and the progress made on the last album had been lost. Perhaps it was harder to see where Lisa fitted in with her old-school soul voice in a time of garage music.
Lisa did bounce back in 2003 with the excellent “Biography” greatest hits collection and accompanying DVD hitting the top 3 in the UK and achieving Gold status. The album also charted across Europe, despite their being no new tracks, and would be her final album for Arista. Lisa would finish 2003 with a contribution to the ‘Mona Lisa Smiles’ soundtrack “I’ve Got The World On A String”.
Lisa signed with the ZTT label and in 2004 released the Trevor ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ Horn album “The Moment”. I felt this was a return to form and an adventurous detour for Lisa, but there seemed to be issues around the promotion of the album, and it was not a hit peaking at a lowly number 57 in the UK.
A reissue in Europe did enjoy a bit more success reaching Gold in Germany, but the singles flopped or where withdrawn. There was a noticeable cover version with the excellent “When Love Breaks Down”. This album deserves a rediscovery and re-evaluation!
After the bruising experience with “The Moment” Lisa would retreat from her music career and successfully pursue her film career. She would return with her seventh album in 2014 with the album conveniently called “Seven” and the single “Can’t Dance”. Lisa would tour with the album and re-release it as “Seven+”.
The album did well hitting number 13 in the UK and received favourable reviews, although the singles made little impact. Lisa was now a stranger to the singles chart, but in the age of streaming this was no surprise. However, Radio 2 showed that Lisa still had an audience.
Lisa would make a quick return in 2018 with a new album “Deeper” and a UK and European tour. The first single “Billionaire” was a return to the classic sound of the “Real Love” era.
In the UK the album reached a respectable number 15 and did hit some European charts. The single “Never Ever” would reach number six in the US Billboard Dance chart which was a welcome return to a chart Lisa had had so much success in, and promoted a tour later this year in North America, the first for over twenty years.
After 35 years, Lisa is certainly still showing us she can still be a hit ‘all around the world’. Lisa joins some of her contemporaries in making successful comebacks in the last few years, such as Gabrielle, Kim Wilde and Rick Astley, showing that there is still a place for these classic acts in both charts and hearts.