- This vintage import offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound for both sides of this Annie Lennox classic from 1992
- Dramatically bigger, richer, smoother, more transparent and just more ANALOG sounding than any other copy you’ve heard, guaranteed or your money back
- “State-of-the-art soul pop, Annie Lennox’s solo debut is sonically gorgeous…” – Rolling Stone
- “Diva glides with a rich, feminine dignity that stands tall in pop history.” – Slant
- If you’re a fan of the Ms Lennox, this debut solo album from 1992 surely belongs in your collection.
- The complete list of titles from 1992 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
By 1992 records like this were only released on import vinyl and typically went out of print soon after they started their descent down the pop charts. I used to sell them back in the day and supplies were extremely limited and unpredictable. And once they were gone they were virtually never reissued. All of those factors conspire to make the cost of acquiring the mintiest pressings from overseas fairly high, and of course the main reason you have never seen the album on our site before.
Be that as it may, we have this copy available and it is not only wonderful sounding but the music is every bit as good as I remember it.
Tubey Magic in 1992? Why Not?
This pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that today’s records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of Diva Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1992
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Critical Reception (Wikipedia)
In 1993 the album was included in Q magazine’s list of the “50 Best Albums of 1992”. Rolling Stone magazine (6/25/92, p. 41) described the album as “…state-of-the-art soul pop…” and it is included in Rolling Stone’s (5/13/99, p. 56) “Essential Recordings of the 90’s” list.
In their review, Rolling Stone commented:
State-of-the-art soul pop, Annie Lennox’s solo debut is sonically gorgeous; it also declares her aesthetic independence. Ace session-men polish Diva’s gloss, and producer Stephen Lipson (Pet Shop Boys, Propaganda) operates in hyperdrive, but these eleven songs are fiercely those of a sister doing things for herself. Three years after her last outing with Dave Stewart, her cohort in Eurythmics, Lennox voids any notion that he was her Svengali and she merely the MTV beauty with stunning pipes. Writing nearly all of Diva, she manages a whirlwind tour of mainstream R&B and retains her singular persona – an ice queen thirsting to be melted by love.
What We’re Listening For on Diva
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
A Pop Masterpiece
We consider this Annie Lennox album her Masterpiece. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Walking On Broken Glass
Legend In My Living Room
Money Can’t Buy It
Stay By Me
Keep Young And Beautiful
Slant 4 1/2 Star Review
To pick apart a deceptively simple album by its musical structure, Diva opens with the simplest of chord progressions. A major fifth is sustained throughout the riff and only the descending bassline provides the tension (turning the fifth into an aroused and introspective sixth, and then resolving with a resigned seventh). That’s it. Nothing more complicated than that until the bathetically optimistic bridge. Stephen Lipson’s icy, new wave use of synthesizers—unfettered, tubular artificiality that’s poised directly between crystalline austerity and late-night Cinemax sleaziness—does very little to murk up the composition. The song, “Why,” is hardly the sort of melodramatic setting we’d imagine from an album whose very name evokes histrionic pretense. But Annie Lennox isn’t and has never been a representative pop diva. Her body is lanky and angular instead of curvaceously plush. Her exaggerated facial features (capped off with a most spectacular set of cheekbones that she wisely never allowed her hair to grow long enough to cover) are matched in androgen-fabulousness only by her tremulously guttural alto.
The first album Lennox released after the Eurythmics called it quits, Diva’s relative quietude is reflective of a woman in full awareness—if not complete control—of the occasional ostentation of her emotional whims. It’s musically analogous to All About Eve’s ferocious Margo Channing during those rare moments when she’s alone and contemplating the social consequences of her violent temper. It speaks exactly what she (Margo, Annie, every woman…) wished she could convey, but the music underneath most of the album’s tracks is filled with the rumbling turbulence that betrays her best intentions. Practically speaking, the music video for Lennox’s baroque dance hit “Walking On Broken Glass” harnesses this stress to a T. Dressed in Amadeus boudoir finery (not to be confused with the Vegas headdress crowning Lennox on the album’s disingenuously gaudy cover), the clip’s heroine finds her flirtations ignored until she gets her paramour alone in her chambers. He mistakenly reads her interest as sexual heat and, outraged, she casts him away, banging her fist against the wall in synchronization to the song’s rimshots. “Every one of us was made to suffer,” she reasons. “Every one of us was made to weep.” One of the most brilliant singles of the era, “Walking On Broken Glass” and its video cast a suspicious eye on the deliberate façade-maintenance of modern pop by playing up the same mixed signals that equips Diva with its power.
Elsewhere on the album, the brooding “Legend In My Living Room” seems to address the false hopes Lennox experienced early in her career from the promises of fame, fortune, and ultimately self-definition (i.e. the notion that she would find her soul in her image), while the lyrics to “Primitive” (“Wipe your tears and let the salt stains dry”) almost seem to address Lennox’s performance in Amos Gitai’s Birth of the Golem, in which she personified the creature born of clay (another role played, another legend in her screening room). Ultimately, the album (well, the CD version of it, anyway) lands on its soft shoes with an incongruous cover of the 1930s MGM showtune “Keep Young And Beautiful,” which ends the introspection on a note of carefree self-parody. As befitting any diva, Lennox isn’t above a little bit of self-deprecation, but Diva glides with a rich, feminine dignity that stands tall in pop history.