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Oct 10

LISA STANSFIELD – “All Around The World”

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#635, 11th November 1989

For the second time, Coldcut give a leg-up to a vocalist via the medium of “featuring” – but while Yazz’ music with and without them wasn’t too different, the gap between “People Hold On” and “All Around The World” is far wider. As a house vocalist, Lisa Stansfield was a terrific find: she could play the belter with the best of them, but also provide a calm centre for Coldcut’s gleeful cut-and-mix pyrotechnics and pianos. Best of all, she sounded like she was having a tremendous time.

Since “All Around The World” is a song about guilt and loss, it’s no surprise she doesn’t sound quite so joyful. But while this kind of smoky ballad is a sensible foundation for a career at the torchy end of soul, I’ve always found it a little tepid. This kind of classy, grown-up pop works best when it feels glossy and nonchalant at the same time, a music of expensive but discreet gestures with detail barely visible but always thought-through. “All Around The World” just doesn’t fit together that well. That awkward murmured intro seems to come from a different emotional place from the grief-stricken verses and determined chorus, and it gives the record an air of self-consciousness which never quite lifts. There are terrific moments – the hesitant shame of “things… he didn’t know before” and the raw “ay-ay-ays” leading into the chorus – but I still end up not quite believing any of it. The lyrics seem sloppy too – “he gave the reasons he should go” in the verses, but she doesn’t know why he’s gone in the chorus? It might seem pedantic but it’s that attention to detail and consistency which can make a pat song believable.

The backing is stronger – light swingbeat rhythms giving a lot of space for the strings (and vocals) to move around in. In the US, where this went to No.1 on the R&B charts, it was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Guy and Troop, and makes sense in that musical context. Here – like “Ride On Time” and the next number one – it’s one of the hits which helps establish the playing field of early 90s pop on this blog. As such it’s easy to overrate – especially next to the lethal lagomorph – but for me this still seems stylised and cold.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Tom on 8 Oct 2010 #

    “good Soul singing”: I sort of wonder if this is at the root of why I’m not so into it – it feels a bit too classicist maybe? There have been a lot of British singers who sound like they’ve made a careful study of soul music and know all the tricks, but it’s all coming at you one step removed.

  2. 27
    Tom on 8 Oct 2010 #

    It’s like something Swanstep said upthread – obviously not meaning it in this way at all – “flies through every vocal test”: that’s kind of what the performance feels like to me, a sort of soulfulness showcase which ends up disconnected from the song (or from anything much really).

  3. 28
    swanstep on 9 Oct 2010 #

    @Lex, 13. Holy crap that Puffy and Biggie record (new to me) is great. I have to confess, however, that I find it very stressful listening. I love its grooves and its timbral genius, but I almost can’t handle its appropriations of (defilings of?) other records and the hail of N-words. Dre’s great ’90s records tend/tended to stress/freak me out in the same ways. Lisa S. is, of course, the opposite of that sort of divisive, territory-marking, for-me stressful listening. I suspect that I need both sorts of music to feel whole, and that there’s no chance that one sort can ever make the other redundant. Anyhow, thanks for the reference.

  4. 29
    Alfred on 9 Oct 2010 #

    “This is the Right Time” has aged better, as indeed have a few of Affection‘s deeper cuts (the title track, “What Did I Do To You”).

  5. 30
    Mark G on 9 Oct 2010 #

    #3, I do remember Lisa Stansfield doing this as a duet with Barry White, some years later.

    It worked very well.

  6. 31
    Jimmy the Swede on 9 Oct 2010 #

    The only thing to say about this is when Lisa clearly admits: “I’ve got too much lager in me” on the hook.

    Know the feelin’, sweedhard! (Hic!)

  7. 32
    flahr on 9 Oct 2010 #

    From “Hang the DJ: An Alternative Book of Music Lists”:

    “All. Around. The. World. A saner person would have stopped in, I don’t know, Epping.”

    (Anyway, a four. Very bland.)

  8. 33
    anto on 10 Oct 2010 #

    Oh Tom I’m sorry you’re not taken with this one cos I think it’s a gem. It’s the first song we’ve come to where I can actually remember being rather glad when it went to number one. As soon as I heard it I liked it.
    ” This is the Right Time ” was good too.

  9. 34
    ace inhibitor on 10 Oct 2010 #

    One of those records that takes me back to a very specific time, place, and sensibility – I had moved to Barcelona from Manchester this autumn and found myself more homesick than I expected or was prepared to admit to. Lisa turned up on whatever the Spanish early evening pop programme was called, singing this & then being interviewed by the presenter – preamble in Spanish I couldn’t really follow, followed by question in heavily accented English, Lisa’s answer in broad and unmistakable Rochdale, then translation back into Spanish – an unexpected and rather lovely moment of familiarity, and I’ve felt an affection for her and the song ever since. a few weeks later a flatmate’s boyfriend arrived from Scotland and sniffed, unimpressed, that something called Madchester had apparently taken over Top of the Pops and the world

  10. 35
    LondonLee on 11 Oct 2010 #

    British attempts at soul music had always lacked a certain something, there was usually something slightly tinny and provincial about it when compared to the American version. But at the time I thought that with this, and especially Soul II Soul, we’d finally gotten it “right” and not surprisingly both were lapped up in the States. I’m not saying the production is Jam & Lewis or anything, it’s still a little thin, but it sounded slick to me (in a good way) and our Lisa had a great voice, if she does lose it a bit by over-emoting a the end. 8 from me.

    And while everyone’s naming their fave Lisa S record I’d probably go with ‘Change’ or ‘Time To Make You Mine’

  11. 36
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Oct 2010 #

    ..Coming back to (and rethinking) the topic of best Lisa S records….I’ve just been listening to “In All The Right Places” for the first time in years. Man, that is a seriously masterful piece of soul. Everything comes together perfectly there. (I love “Time To Make You Mine” too; but it’s somehow less complete or polished) Maybe because it was from a bit later on in her career, I’d forgotten just how – timelessly – good it was.

  12. 37
    punctum on 11 Oct 2010 #

    I love the film (Indecent Proposal) version of “In All The Right Places” with John Barry input; wonderful chord changes, fabulous singing.

  13. 38
    MikeMCSG on 11 Oct 2010 #

    #24 Dublin is about the nearest place to Rochdale whilst being non-domiciled for tax purposes.

    # 22 Great list Billy. Some real superstars in “the Video Entertainers – wtf were Poacher ? You left out the obvious
    “Razzmatazz” which she used to present. I seem to recall she got dropped for kicking a kid. The appearance on The Word was the one where a guy pushed a condom up one nostril and pulled it out of the other and Lisa said “I thought a condom was something you put on your willy”. Always been grateful for that, saved me a fortune in maintenance payments !

    Wasn’t it around this time that the concept of the “wigga” was born ? I remember Spitting Image had Lisa and Mick Hucknall duetting on a song called “We Want To Be Black”.

  14. 39
    will on 11 Oct 2010 #

    A pleasant, and as pointed out earlier, a very autumnal Number One. Can’t say I was wild about it at the time but I think, like the best of her other singles – Change, This Is The Right Time – it’s lasted very well.

  15. 40
    Chris Gilmour on 13 Oct 2010 #

    I grew up in Rochdale, so had begun to get a bit irritated by Lisa at this point, not least because she’d always go on about how great Rochdale was, which it really, really wasn’t for me. I’d really loved ‘People Hold On’ and to a lesser extent, ‘This Is The Right Time’, so the dive in tempo was also a disappointment. I’ve changed my opinion since, I think it’s a great classy Brit soul record, though I can see how some would feel it was a little cold, perhaps because this sort of production has more mystique if it’s coming from America and to be fair it does sound a bit cheaper than the likes of Jam & Lewis.
    It was my 15th birthday around this time, so bought a load of records that turned out to be important for me; two ‘Deep Heat’ albums, the ‘House Hallucinates’ album, the best of DJ Fast Eddie, and obviously ‘Pacific State’, so I was finally moving away from pure pop.
    Anyway, a seven for this one.

  16. 41
    Daniel - Yurtdisi Egitim on 14 Oct 2010 #

    I agree with the criticism regarding the arrangement of the song. It had its “not belonging to the song” parts. But it is interesting to see how some people belong to a period of time, and cannot move forward and improve. Like a painting hanging on a wall. Once in a while you go back, have a look and say, “well, nice”.

  17. 42
    vic on 2 Nov 2010 #

    One could have a look at her version of Cole Porter’s ‘Down in the Depths’ from the Red Hot & Blue video collection, and see that she really can sing. (That vid has some other v. interesting stuff, e.g. the Iggy Pop/Debbie Harry version of ‘Well, did you eva’ or ‘what a swell party this is. (I’m away from home and can’t check them out.
    Also, in reference to a post I made many years ago, my Uncle Vic who hosted Macca and Jane Asher as stage door keeper at the Bristol Old Vic, around the time that Macca is believed to have found the name for Eleanor Rigby, also somehow managed to maintain a regular correspondence with Gracie Fields when she was living out retirement on Capri

  18. 43
    Steviebab on 22 Nov 2013 #

    It’s funny how I, like many others, it seems, heard this and thought it’s a Barry White record

  19. 44
    Cumbrian on 22 Nov 2013 #

    How many #1s are there that share the same title but are not covers? This being one, obviously. I guess I could go painstakingly through the list of #1s and work it out but I figure it might be something someone here knows off the top of their head/out of the end of their fingers.

  20. 45
    punctum on 22 Nov 2013 #

    bunny

  21. 46
    hectorthebat on 7 Mar 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Blender (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Songs to Download Right Now! (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 5
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 10
    Record Mirror (UK) – Singles of the Year 3

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