Review: “Independence” by Lulu (CD, 1993)

Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain future, is the 1993 album Independence by Scottish singer Lulu. Will this album be strong and confident, or should you declare Independence of it? Read on…

Lulu - Independence (1993) album cover
Lulu – Independence (1993) album

This 12 track album opens with the titular lead single Independence, and this track drops us in on some percussion, piano, and slick 90’s beats. Musically it reminds me of Kylie’s Where Is The Feeling?, which makes sense given Steve Anderson and Brothers In Rhythm are behind this song. Vocally, Lulu delivers a really warm and rich relaxed sound. This is a wonderful track, and a perfect way to introduce a 60’s UK megastar to a discerning 90’s audience. A pop gem, and it rightly gave her a #11 UK hit.

The piano returns for There Has Got To Be A Way, which turns the tempo down a little, giving us a steady pop song. Lulu’s vocals get space to soar, alongside some beautiful harmonies from an almost gospel set of backing singers.

Restless Moods follows this, and Lulu opens the track with some sensual whispering at the start. As the track gently progresses with a shuffling beat, Lulu’s vocals take a lower register, and result in a sound that sounds like early-Dannii Minogue. It’s a really nice chilled out track.

Legendary singer Bobby Womack joins Lulu for the next track I’m Back For More, which is a cover of a hit by Marlena Shaw. Bobby’s distinct vocals lead the way, and give Lulu the perfect partner. The song feels a little bit slow and meandering in the verse, but the chorus pulls it back into line and is infinitely more catchy. This was the album’s second single, but failed to repeat the success of Independence, reaching #27 in the UK chart.

Briefly opening like a Bond Theme, before switching to a mid-tempo ballad, How ‘Bout Us is next. This is a cover of the 1981 Champaign track, and was the album’s fourth and final single, released just 1 month after Lulu scored her first #1 with Take That. Whilst this is a fairly standard mid-tempo track, the shadow cast by Relight My Fire and the contrast of that song to this, no doubt led to this being overlooked. Instead, this single stalled at #46.

Next up is Until I Get Over You, which was written by 80’s group Climie Fisher. This track is bright and upbeat, with a slick 90’s beat, and I can imagine a version of this being recorded by Lisa Stansfield. Lulu’s vocals sit here with great ease. A nice little track.

Let Me Wake Up In Your Arms follows this, with some guitar and backing vocals from Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. He’s joined by brother Maurice Gibb on production. This track has a catchy snare beat, and this lifts it up and gives Lulu a really cheerful upbeat song. She sounds like she’s smile-singing throughout. Despite this, when the track was released as the album’s third single, it stalled at #51 in the UK, just one month before she’d hit #1 with Take That.

This is followed by You Left Me Lonely, which takes the tempo back down with some fairly standard love song piano, with some brass lurking in the background. Again, my ears can switch Lulu with Lisa Stansfield with ease, and it would easily blend into the latter’s So Natural album from the same year.

Next up is a Sheena Easton cover, Rhythm Of Romance. This is a nice enough mid-tempo song, and whilst it is musically fairly forgettable, it does give Lulu a few opportunities to show off that vocal power that’s been bubbling under the surface throughout this album so far.

I’m Walking Away follows this, and this time it sounds a bit more on parr with Independence, complete with some lovely 90’s beats. This is a Lulu co-write, and that perhaps helps to explain how she’s being allowed to show off her vocals a bit more. There’s some really nice warm backing vocals too, and whilst it’s not the most catchy track, it is a nice track.

Penultimate track A Place To Fall is next, and it starts off pretty simple. As the song builds, Lulu is joined by her backing singers, who offer her some really great harmonies to duel with, which is mostly the redeeming feature of this track. The keychange about 2/3rds of the way in feels a little unnecessary.

The album closes with Let Me Fall Into Your Arms (Romantic Reprise) complete with additional production from Frankie Knuckles. This version plays more on strings and piano, and that really helps to build it up. However, it’s mostly an instrumental reprise, lacking Lulu’s vocals until 3m 21s in. This means those Lulu and Barry Gibb vocals from the version earlier in the album are shoe-horned into the end. However, the oomph given by Lulu and Barry in their brief appearance here demonstrates just how powerful she can sound, and it’s nice to hear his vocals clearly rather than discretely buried in the mix. Would have been far better to have heard this track with the vocals throughout.

Lulu’s hit lead titular single ‘Independence’ from 1993.

Verdict

Over all, this album is very well produced with slick songs, some fresh 90’s beats, and a wonderful vocal performance from Lulu, and her backing singers. It oozes confidence, aptly giving its title. Even in the sleeve notes she gives thanks to “everyone who helped me give birth to this new beginning“.

The cover versions here are subtle, and I certainly wouldn’t have spotted them without reading up about the album. A few of the tracks feel like they’re wasting Lulu’s vocal skills, and also like they’re trying too hard to fit in with other contemporary female vocalists like Lisa Stansfield or even Gabrielle and Eternal.

The success of the lead single gave us promise of a real contemporary Lulu. Her previous two charting singles had been yet another re-release of Shout and My Boy Lollipop, in the mid-1980s, and they were low charting at that. It was sadly to be short lived.

With a few more distinct single choices she could have sustained her success in her own right rather than just having success with the lead track and returning alongside Take That. Even just including that song here, would have been perfect.

It’s a nice album, and a positive comeback that deserved more attention.

Rated 3 stars - Give it a go!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1993 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #67
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.19 from a Discogs.com seller.

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