(updated 29 March 2002) Longtime fans know that with each new release Miriam Stockley
tries to give them something special, something they have never
heard before. Whether as a solo singer or as a contributor to
Adiemus or other projects, Miriam Stockley’s projects are never
repetitive or predictable. The new album Second Nature
(Flavour Of Sound (Japan) FVCK 80146, 2001) is no exception.
This time Miriam Stockley presents what amounts to a Greatest
Hits album, but with all new songs (with one song excepted, but
more about that later). This contradiction in terms is explained
by the idea that each song on this album reminds the listener of
the highlights of Miriam’s earlier work, thus creating a collage
of sounds and a great showcase for her talent.
This album is also truly a gift to the fans in another way: many
of the songs feature the ethnic style vocals that Miriam can perform
like no other and which so many fans favor her for. Consequently,
this album has a lighter and more rhythmic feel than it’s predecessor,
the album Miriam.
The album starts out with great promise with the song "Umaya."
Reminiscent of the song "Amitaya" from the Shabala album, this
upbeat song showcases the layers of ethnic vocals so typical of
much of Miriam’s work. This is a great dance song and a perfect
introduction to this album which has more of an ethnic flavor
than Miriam’s previous solo album.
The light-as-a-feather staccato vocals of "Rainsong" remind the
listener of "Cantus Inaequalis" from the Adiemus—Songs of Sanctuary
album, albeit with a much more complex arrangement. On a gentle rhythm,
the vocals drip-drop down like rain drops. The result is an amazingly
subtle song, showcasing both great songwriting and pitch-perfect vocals.
The beautiful ballad "A Finnish Summer Night—Finlandia,"
starts with a sweet harmonized intro before moving into the
main song. The lead vocal is out front on this song, and its
dream-like quality resembles that of longtime fan favorite
The song "One Dream" features Miriam in full diva mode, and the
style is reminiscent of "Forever My Heart" from the Miriam
album. The millennial message of peace in the song’s lyric perfectly
matches the dramatic melody and delivery. This is a song other singers
should pick up on.
The ethnic sounds return lightly on "Spring" which starts gently but
builds up volume as it proceeds. Reminding the listener of the jazzy
style of "Traces" from Rolf Schimmermann’s album Suru, this song is
quite subtle in its execution.
A full return to Miriam’s African roots is found on "Sabancaya."
Starting with a great ethnic rhythm and vocals, this song contains
several surprises along the way in its vocal arrangement. Many of
these surprises—the chants, the whispers, and the song’s mix of
modern and traditional instrumentation—build on the sounds
created for the Praise album, especially in such songs as
"Chinatown" and "Brand New Day." The great rhythm of this song
makes it perfectly suitable for a dance remix.
"Butterfly" is a simple and happy jazz tune which features
Miriam vocalizing lightly and in perfect pitch. This song reminds
the listener of Miriam’s many years of being a session singer and
adapting her voice fluidly to the demands of the songs she supported.
"Massai Rain" is the track fans are already familiar with, as an
earlier version of this song was included on the Elevation
compilation. The song has been changed somewhat, with additional
percussion and an extension of the trumpet solo, but its basic
sound and driving rhythms remain. This now hard to find song
was—according to the liner notes for the ElevationCD—intended
for Miriam’s first solo album, but its full-on ethnic sound fits
much better here.
"Ifemeli" is another successful experiment of ethnic vocals and
percussion, using both the shrill ethnic side of Miriam’s voice
and its warm soothing side. The drum sounds are quite similar
to the ones used by Paul Simon on his Rhythm of the Saints
album, but Miriam’s vocals are reminiscent of her work on "Take
Me Home" from Rolf Schimmermann’s Jenesaisquoi album.
The closing track "Tula" is a sweet lullaby with a lush vocal
performance. The song’s treatment and atmosphere are similar
to that of the song "Secret" from the soundtrack of The
Overall Second Nature is easily Miriam Stockley’s best album
yet. It has enough variety to keep the listener interested, it
is filled with Miriam’s trademark ethnic style which will please
many fans, and Miriam’s voice has never sounded better. This CD
deserves a worldwide release.--Paul Van Vliet
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this Miriam Stockley is a must listen!