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Feels like I'm lost in a deep cloud of heavenly scent" is a lyric from the most well-known song of the album "I Love You Always Forever", which sums up how much I like, even dare I say it, love this album, for which I could not describe into words any better, myself. Doona Lewis' debut album "Now In A Minute", houses a fantastic mix of dreamy sprawling & haunting vocals and sounds tinged with a Celtic vibe and 90's contempary beats. Despite the squeaky-clean innocence of her voice, It's not bubblegum pop, but it's neither a power ballad. This album is much more than "I Love You Always Forever", the only really big hit from the album. The rest of the album is actually surprisingly good, and there's not many albums out there, that I've listened and can say I really like most of the songs. This album was released in 1996, but the first time I listened to it was in 2006. I was aware of "I Love You Always Forever" but nothing more. I do prefer more upbeat music in general, however this struck a tone with me. It's just Donna Lewis', earthy, mature and breathy voice and the haunting, poignant and reflective tunes that makes your mind wonder. I would love to say, back when the first time I heard this album, it was a life-changing experience, but I can't really say that. I was only aware of the album's biggest hit, but there is another song which sounded strangely familiar to me. I'll reveal that, as you read on.
Donna Lewis was born on the 5th August, 1973 in the capital city of Wales, Cardiff. She was brought up in musical family, and learned to play the piano from an early age, helped by her jazz pianist father. Lewis began writing songs when an teenager. She also became a talented singer. She trained at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, excelling at the piano and flute. Lewis then moved to Sussex to teach music, but quickly attempted to try her hand as a popstar, moving to Birmingham, forming a band, as their lead singer, and sending demo tapes by 1993, to record labels. There was no Myspace back then now! Atlantic Records soon took interest in Lewis, and this great debut album, "Now In a Minute", was soon released in 1996.
Donna Lewis' showed a great versatility in this album, as she wrote and sang most of the songs, one of which, was a worldwide smash. "I Love You Always Forever" not only just hit number 2 in the US Billboard Hot 100, but it became No.1 in the Hot Airplay chart for 12 weeks. It became the most played on the radiowaves, and you know what? It didn't only become the most played song of 1996, but one of the most played - not THE most played- for the whole decade of the 1990's. It did only though reach No.5 in the UK Singles Chart. The song received more publicity thanks to a piece of the hit single being played on "Windows 95" advertising campaign. I also believe the song was later used for a Wales tourism advert, which is absolutely suits her style of music completely. The sprawling and magnificent countryside of Wales matched alongside Donna Lewis music is a great match. "Now In A Minute", is a great album to listen to on the road. There is a certain ambience to this album's music which is compareable to another music artist, Enya, but not as classical and abstract.
From this album, 5 of the songs were released as singles, including "I Love You Always Forever". The second biggest selling single was "Without Love", which only managed to reach the high end the Top 40, at it's peak, doing better in the US again, at No.24. The other 3 singles were "Mother", "Love & Affection" & "Fools Paradise". Only "Fools Paradise" made any impact to the music charts, putting in at 169th in the UK Singles Chart. However, like most of the album, the songs are pretty under-rated in my view. So let's look at the songs individually.
1. "Without Love" - 3:41 - One of the more up-beat songs, Lewis vocals have an echoed effect, and sometimes overlaps in the chorus, to good effect. I like the way she ends some of the verse lines with the to-and-fro vocal ranges of a long drawn "ooh". It's definetely one of the richer songs in variation of her vocals. The song seems to be about an estranged relationship where the love seems to have dried up, and Donna is crying out for some affection.
2. "Mother" - 4:34 - This is the only other song that was familiar to me, from the first hearing of this album. However, it was not the vocals that were familiar but the instrumental at the beginning. I had a good idea I had heard it on a TV programme in the 90's. I would sometime recall back to it, wondering what song/music, this came from. Well, now I know. I think I have a good idea of where I heard it. This is a kind of cutesy song, that pays homage to the parentage of having a mother. I really like the beginning of the song, but that is probably because I feel more affiliated with it. The beginning of the song sounds like a musical box is being played, which springs into a synth-like sound. A solid song on the album.
3. "I Love You Always Forever" - 3:59 - The biggest hit of the album, certainly holds up well against the other songs, with a epic feel of slowly accelerating beats with Donna Lewis angelic voice. A great change in tone halfway over the song, changing from the slow wailing to the fast spirited, kind of break-away portion of the song, conveying a positive message to always love your partner wherever you are. This is of course one of the best songs on the album, but because of the high quality of the other songs, I tussle between this and some others over what I am liking the best. This is probably the most magical and atmospheric of the songs with some punch added in.
4. "Nothing Ever Changes" - 4:26 - This is a different pace of song from the first 3. It's does seem more pedestrian, but it is one of those songs that grows on you. This is a slower paced song, goes very well with the topic in question, the feeling that no matter how hard you try, you're still in the same old rut, so nothing ever changes. Lewis' haunting but beautiful vocal really come into play, and that's what makes this song work, as she has a sound emotional voice, and possibly in other hands, it would come across as rather bland.
5. "Simone" - 4:26 - On my first time of hearing the whole album, I have to say this was my favourite at the time. Such an excellent under-rated song. So unassuming and minimalistic for the most part, it spings to life with Lewis' vocals. the song seems to have the most hurtful tone of all the songs in this album. It's a song of mixed signals, the uplifting verse lyrics like "hold your head up high and say goodbye, no second thoughts, you have a future waiting..." to a depressing chorus of "and you will free your mind to sleep, and you will free yourself to weep". Which could mean, just cry it out of you're system first, whatever the issue is. Only the piano is mainly played throughout the song. Simone is not mentioned in the song at all, so we're guessing Simone is a friend or associate she is advising. Lewis is almost whispering in the song. The song is regarded as a genre of music called "Dream Pop", which are very sensual songs with the singer whispering. The song also goes at slow pace, and when it comes to the chorus it comes at a tangent, but it merges in well witht he rest of the song.
6. "Love & Affection" - 3:55 - Despite this being one of the Singles for the album, I feel this is the weakest song of the album definitely. It just feels..alright. It's a come-down from what went before. What's different in this song is the use of a guitar as the main tune. While the chorus is the best thing about it, in which Donna adds a great deal of depth and changes in tone, a wild change of tone infact. The guitar solo near the end is good though. I don't know how she or her record label or producer selected what would be the singles, but I feel it's just been added, because sounds in with the times, or more populist in it's execution. I would agree though, some of the non-singles would not hold mainstream appeal, especially "Simone". However, I would put in either "Agenais", "Lights of Life" or "Silent World" over this song as a single. Just too hard to decide which one!
7. "Agenais" - 4:12 - Now I've already given you a clue on how I rate this song already. The last half of the album, is by no means the weaker end of the album. Agenais is another excellent under-rated song that comes across as the most earthy and etheral of the album. What a brilliant vibe it gives off. It's once again a quite slow reflective song, however it doesn't feel like a real drab to listen through, as it's heavily punctuated by echoing and atmospheric piano chords, that give this song a lovely feel. "Agenais", I'm guessing, is referring to an old French region back in ancient times, when it was known as "Gaul". The lyics have an almost fantasial and fairytale-like quality. This is the song in the album that's most likely to make your mind wonder.
8. "Fools Paradise" - 4:01 - I find this to be the most uplifting song of the album. It's a more straight-forward song with more stronger drum beat than the rest, along with some echoing chimes. This is another favourite of mine's from the album. I really like how Donna Lewis adds vocally to some lines from the chorus, that's different from the rest of the song. Ending the lyric with a more emphatic vocal lunge. When she sings pain in the lyric "I don't wanna feel ... your ... pain ... ", it really sounds like she is in pain..mental pain that is. Lewis really knows how to get the feelings across, especially the more negative emotions, perfectly.
9. "Lights of Life" - 4:51 - Another under-rated favourite. It's a relentlessly slow song, but it doesn't feel like a song that never gets going. The main instrument seemd to be a harp with echoes, much different from the other songs, along with some reflective-sounding synth, also echoing, which gives a great feel after the chorus, which is mostly Lewis singing a slow and drifting "oh". Just from listening to the song, it seems to have a different agenda from the others. It feels like the mourning of loved ones who are gone out of you're life or have died. However looking at the lyrics...not so sure! The lyrics go on about being lost, out in the cold outside, and then seeing "lights", the lights of life, then being found, then being re-born. However, the lyrics don't have to be taken literally, it could all have a metaphorical meaning. It could still mean, about how you might feel, in the aftermath of a loved one dying, but it can be interpretated in many ways depending on the person. There could also be a religious tone to the song. Good, good song.
10 "Silent World"- 2:52 - Usually I find songs with only a piano, to be pretty boring and a drag to listen to. Not this one. It's another song that grows on you. It has a more girl-ish feel and Disney-like feel to the song over the other songs in this album. The opening lyric "If I could put you, on top of a cake I would ice you ..." is a little bit suspect as to making any sense, but I could never make that out, until I saw the lyric in print. The subject matter goes along similar lines though, of being lost without love in a relationship like in "Without Love" and even "Lights of Life". It's a pretty damn good stripped-to-the-bone song with no fancy ambience. However, of the 3 songs mentioned earlier, in what could've replaced "Love and Affection" as a single, I would say I prefer "Agenais" and "Lights of Life" over this song, but still with no easy decision to say what would come out tops!
11. "I Love You Always Forever" (Philly Remix) - 4:40 - Not a great deal of difference from the original version. Just really a reminder of what song on the album made the biggest bucks.
If you like reflective songs with over-stated poignance and sentimentality, a haunting but emotionally stirring ambience, then this is for you. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I listened to "Now In a Minute". The album cover I would say is OK but nothing special, It's a behind-view of Donna Lewis looking in the mirror, seeing her reflection, admiring her hair, which will have some obvious deeper meaning to it. Mostly white and pink at the side of the CD cover.
It's an album which has definitely got heart and soul. It's an album that makes you think. It's an album that sounds great on the go, especially those long-winding epic journeys you may have in the car when on holiday, a time when you're relaxed, is the best mood to listen to it, to really take in it's enchanting and enticing vocals and tunes. Can't name you a favourite, it's probably between 5 songs, and that's "I Love You Always Forever", "Simone", "Agenais", "Fools Paradise" & "Lights of Life". Donna Lewis voice is wonderfully adept at provoking emotions of hurt, strength and love through her breathy but innocent voice, giving it a sense of purity. A more conventional female singer would wipe the edge off these songs, and it wouldn't matter how large their range is. It is Pop, but not as we know it!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I Love You Always Forever
3 Lights Of Life
4 Fool's Paradise
5 Silent World
6 Nothing Ever Changes
7 Without Love
8 Love Affection
11 I Love You Always Forever (2)