(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 "Perfect Day."
The song "One Dream" features Miriam in full diva mode, and the style is reminiscent of "Forever My Heart" from the Miriamalbum. 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 Clandestine Marriage.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.comhere. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this Miriam Stockley is a must listen!