Today’s POP RESCUE from a potentially loveless fate, is the 1992 debut album Everybody’s Free by Zambian singer Rozalla.
This 12-track dance album, opens with the title track and #6 UK hit second single Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good), a song that really showcases Rozalla’s vocal range. The brooding bassline is punctuated by some house piano and beats, all sitting perfectly beneath her vocals. At about 2mins 20, some orchestra stab synth sounds come in, dating it a bit, but we’re soon back to the vocals again. This is a brilliant track.
Next up is lead single Faith (In The Power Of Love), which sees the house piano return, and a similar composition as the opening track. However, the verses feel a little more verbose, but the chorus really lifts the song (even if it is very much in the same way as Everybody’s Free). Whilst this was released in the UK first, it stalled at #65. It was then re-released as the follow-up single, which took it up to #11 in the UK.
Third track You And Me is a much softer track, and whilst Rozalla’s vocals stand strong here, this track feels very plain and simple musically. She sounds like a cross between Shara Nelson and Billie Ray Martin here (think Your Loving Arms from 1995).
Heart Is In Africa is up next, and this is a short 39 second track, which fades in and out, with Rozalla speaking in what is presumably one of her native African languages. I can’t find a reference as to what language this is in, so leave a comment below if you know it.
The Story Book Of Love follows this, and this is a much fuller-fledged track. There’s some delicious drums that sound like they’ve been borrowed from PM Dawn.
Up next is Don’t Play With Me, opening with breathy synths and some rich vocal harmonies, before a throbbing bassline and beat strikes up, and Rozalla belts into the verses. ‘Don’t play with me unless it’s for real‘ she sings. Take note: there’s no football friendlies to be had here. She would go on to release this song as her seventh single in 1993, but it stalled at #50. It’s release was behind single In 4 Choons Later, a kind of dance medley of the previous 4 singles. It doesn’t feature on this album.
The great Are You Ready To Fly? is up next. I’ve seen Rozalla perform once or twice at club nights, and she would always belt this track out, seemingly with great ease. I think that this is probably my favourite Rozalla song, but only just. This was her fourth single, reaching #14 in the UK chart. It should have gone higher.
In what sounds like electronic seagulls (and may well are meant to), Lost In Your Ocean opens with some synth samples, before picking up a great strong beat and bassline, and what also sounds like a synth oboe. This is all backed with those house pianos again. This is a really nice growing track. I can’t see this ever bothering a singles schedule, but it’s a nice inclusion here on the album.
Dramatic brass, harps, and sweeping strings take you on a luxurious journey into Hear Me Calling, but it’s all over within 1m 8 sec. I wanted more of this song.
Then, Rozalla gives us Love Breakdown, the fifth single from the album, and here she sounds somewhat like an En Vogue at the start, before treading back into the Shara Nelson vocal territory. It’s a slick track – and really stands out amongst the much more 1992 dance orientated sounds. Sadly this track stalled in the UK single charts at #65. When you think that Shara and Eternal would both start their careers the following year, I feel that this track was duly robbed of at least a top 20 placing.
Penultimate track Believe In Yourself is up next, and this, like a few of the songs on this album, carries a general theme of strength. Rozalla’s lyrics promote strength, courage, and expression, and none more than in this track. The house piano and dance hi-hats and bass drum may be here, but the song is quite a mellow, gentle song.
The album closes with Born To Love You (1992), a re-make of her 1990 debut single that gave her a club hit, but didn’t take her into the charts. There’s definitely some prelude moments in this song that hint at what was yet to come. The house piano, bassline, and all the vocal samples really reek of 1990, but it’s a catchy track.
Overall, this album is a great example of early 90s dance. Two of Rozalla’s three moderate hit singles, and Everybody’s Free in particular, have stood out as classics from this era. The album rarely strays from a particular style, that producers (and songwriters) Nigel Swanson and Tim Cox (aka Band Of Gypsies) gave her.
Where is Rozalla now?
Rozalla has released three further albums since this one – her most recent being 2009’s Brand New Version. However, none of her singles have quite topped the same level of commercial success as her debut.
She toured with Michael Jackson for the European leg of his 1991/1992 Dangerous album tour, and in 2009 she opened for Billy Ocean.
Everybody’s Free has continued to be a regularly charting song, through various remixes and uses in TV shows.
Her most recent singles were in 2014, but she has not charted in the Top 30 UK singles chart since 1995’s Baby.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1992 UK CHART POSITION: #20
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a That’s Entertainment store.