Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the debut 1994 album Visions by British soul singer Lena Fiagbe. Is this album a Vision, or should you send it back for her to Get It Right next time? Read on..
The album opens with debut and lead single You Come From Earth. This is a bit of an odd song. Musically it is rich with soaring strings, tinkling piano, pecussive beats, and warm backing vocals. Even the video is lavish, but the song itself just seems to sit too low-register for Lena most of the time, and whilst her lyrics tackle racial equality, it hangs together quite loosely, and just feels like a slightly weaker place to start the album. The track got stuck at #69 in the UK singles chart.
Next is third single What’s It Like To Be Beautiful, and this is lovely shuffling slow song, and the guitar riff that opens the song really fits well. It is easy to imagine the vocals being delivered by her contemporary Gabrielle, but alongside the strummed guitars and piano, the song really feels delicate and warm with Lena at the helm. A wonderful song, and perhaps a better start for the album. Tragically, the song got stuck at #52 in the UK… and this is a crime against music because it itself is beautiful.
Hit second single Gotta Get It Right follows this, and this is the only track of hers that I remember. The track is bright, airy, and the shuffling percussion lifts the tempo and helps serve the catchiness of it. Lena’s vocals are wonderful here, and go quite a pace against the wafting strings, acoustic guitar, piano, and percussive sound. This is truly a 90’s gem. Unbelievably, the track only reached #20 in the UK chart, but definitely deserved a higher position.
Titular track and single Visions follows this, and this time it took her to #48 in the UK singles chart. There’s a tinge of country music here, and Lena gets to show off her vocal power and range, over this up-tempo song. The strings soar here alongside her vocals and it results in a fairly catchy little song.
Next is single Is It Because, and Lena’s vocals really shine here from the get go. The intro is really beautiful, just her vocals against acoustic guitar. Bass joins in before leading into a light percussion. Her vocals are rich and warm, sat upon the guitar. The song builds wonderfully with an undercurrent of soaring strings and backing vocals, giving plenty of space for the fragility in Lena’s voice to show, and this suits the lyrics perfectly. A really nice song, but once again crimes against music were committed in the UK, as it flopped at #87. Re-released now, and it would be a hit.
Everybody Needs Some Luck is next and this is another return to a faster track. It’s a busy song with lots of drum beats, keyboards, piano. However, the melody is hard to find here and I found it quite disorientating. The chorus feels like it’s going to be a safe and reliable place to be, but it feels a little flat. Lena’s vocals sound how I’d imagine she sounds like when singing an Alanis Morissette song. The song then suddenly seems to take a turn via the Republic of Ireland, courtesy of what sounds like a fiddle, before heading off to the fade. Weird.
That’s followed by People People sees a return to form. The chorus is really nice and works really well with the guitars and percussion. The backing vocals here are really well placed, giving Lena a voice to build against. The end result is a nice little song with a catchy chorus.
Next is Here We Go Again and thankfully we do – because this track nicely catchy. The vocals and backing vocals set on top of the strings and piano sounds wonderfully. At time I can hear echoes of Lisa Stansfield here thanks to Lena’s soulful vocals and the choice of musical instruments in the chorus. A really nice song.
Penultimate track Jus Wanna Be Me opens with piano, luring Lena to the mic. I expect to hear Elton to join her on the vocals, but he doesn’t. Instead, she takes the song and owns it. Again she makes light work of the lyrics as the song builds around her thanks to those shuffling beats and swelling strings. The Gabrielle sensor pings again for a bit, before flicking the slightly silly funky-Elton’s-on-the-piano sensors back on again. That all culminates in a really nice warm song. It ends abruptly and leads straight into…
…It Is. The piano sits alongside Lena’s beautifully rich vocals here, giving her the chance to show off her range and power. I’m reminded of Carole King for a bit, before she’s joined by some gentle guitar strums and backing vocals. The piano and vocal duelling returns, and continue to build and shine wonderfully.
Over all, this album is lyrically full of love and positivity, and is a musically warm and gentle collection of reflective songs. Lena’s vocals are rich, and obviously well suited to most of the songs here as co-writer. They lull you along perfectly over a wash of acoustic guitars, string sections, and light percussive beats throughout.
I think that this album, and the singles, struggled to compete with the popularity of Gabrielle in the UK, who was having significant success by this time, as well as the wave of eurodance that was surging through the charts. Musically, the album is very similar, thanks to what sounds like a small collection of instruments, and whilst that means that most of the songs feel comfortable together, it does lead to an album that has to work harder to have distinct songs.
Gotta Get It Right, Because It Is, and What’s It Like To Be Beautiful are very much the musical highlights here, and do not be put off by their lacklustre singles chart performance. Everybody Needs Some Luck is definitely the low point. Otherwise, it’s quite a chilled album, and one that any 90’s acoustic guitar-led pop music fan would enjoy.
Lena was robbed of attention in the UK. I hope she finds a way to return with some new music real soon.
- POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1994 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: Did not chart.
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.00 from a Discogs.com seller.