Today’s POP RESCUE from a potentially loveless fate, is the 2006 second album Secret Garden by Natalie Williams.
This 14-track album opens with the title track Secret Garden – a sultry, slow, funky, innuendo-laden track. The track reminds me of something you’d find on an En Vogue album. It’s a great way to open an album. The track itself begins with birdsong, before Natalie gets into the more seductive ‘where milk and honey run‘ lines.
Second track, and lead single released in 2005 – Butterfly, reminds me of an All Saints album track, or that of Deee-Lite‘s 1994 album Dewdrops In The Garden.
Next up is The Way We Like It featuring Ty and Esha, which opens with with quite a tempo, and a lot of handclaps, and sounds pretty flamenco inspired. This is catchy, and stylistically reminds me a bit of the some of Lina‘s work. The rap from Ty doesn’t dominate the track, even if he gets a fair run – it fits in perfectly. The ending includes a That’s The Way (We Like It) snippet re-sung by Natalie and Esha.
Fourth track, Psychedelic Love is a rich, indulgent track, laden with strings and a great slinky bass line. It also samples Lujon by Henry Mancini. Natalie’s vocals purr with ease here through this dreamy song, with operatic support from Kate Royal. It’s relaxed, slow, and a wonderfully warm song. Perfect!
Second single, This Girl is up next, and this is a wonderfully summery track. The video grabs this perfectly showing smiles galore as Natalie, her man, and some musical angels drive a VW camper van through a lush green forest. The song is catchy, musically airy, and Natalie’s vocals are beautifully soulful in this song. How the hell this song failed to make it into the charts in the UK, I’ll never know.
Up next is Settle The Score, opening up with bass and piano, setting a perfect foundation for Natalie’s rich and warm purring vocals. In contrast to the previous track, this is a relaxed, chilled out, song.
The pace picks up for Dance For Me, which is definitely a more RnB song – not unlike something that you might find on a Destiny’s Child or Beyoncé album. It’s a pretty minimal track – reliant on some clappy beats, and a funky bassline, pitched against Natalie’s vocal harmonies.
This is followed by the chilled out Does It Feel Good, which builds nicely to incorporate strings, brass, and an organ that builds the song up nicely. Again, Natalie makes light work of the vocals here.
The mellow and funky sounding Wall is the ninth track here. The brass, bass, and keys are the perfect backing to Natalie here. Her vocals rule in this track, and the music gives her plenty of space to lead the track through this sad story of reflection and regret. I think I could imagine Amy Winehouse singing this song. This is a lovely song.
Natalie is joined by Nate James for tenth track Conversation. Their vocals are perfectly contrasting, set against some acoustic guitar and bass. The track is quite catchy, and the rapid back-and-forth of their vocals works really well. Like previous track, Wall, the song is musically uncluttered giving plenty of space for both vocalists and the backing vocals to lead here.
Up next is You Don’t Know, which was released as a single. The track is pretty up-beat, and contains a replayed sample of Two For Bleu by Charlie Hunter – which gives the song an addictive riff throughout. There appears to be several remixes of this song around. Again, Natalie’s delivery style is reminding me of Lina.
This is followed by the Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright co-written cover version – To Know You Is To Love You. This is quite a chilled out track, with some great vocal harmonies. The bass, Rhodes, and brass section stand back, giving Natalie’s vocals more room to shine here, and they really do.
Penultimate track, Since You’ve Been Gone is a nice slow jazzy number, with downbeat piano and finger snaps, giving way to some wonderfully rich vocal harmonies. This is a lovely warm track, and could easily be the end of the album…
…but final track The Nanny soon follows. Opening with some synth stabs, sounding very different indeed. Even the lyrics ‘strange, things come when least expected’ gives nods to those surprise synths and contrasting style. This really is a RnB song that you could expect to find on a Beyoncé album, and it’s odd synth sound really helps it make it stand as a really good song. If you’re a fan of TV series Pigeon Street, you’ll be right at home. It even plays out perfectly.
Overall, this album has a mixture of sounds – from really jazzy numbers (Since You’ve Been Gone), through to RnB (The Nanny, Dance For Me etc), and some really ace pop gems (notably This Girl). I’m sad to think that this album didn’t perform in the UK.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2006 UK CHART POSITION: Did not chart
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.50 from a Cancer Research UK shop.
Where is Natalie Williams now?
There are scant details on Natalie Williams online, even videos, and her official website seemingly out of date.
After this album, Natalie began working with dance group Incognito.
She has collaborated with Jamie Cullum, previously worked with Amy Winehouse, Emili Sandé, Goldie, Cee-Lo Green, and Omar. In 2010 she was nominated for a MOBO award for best UK Soul Artist.
She can regularly be seen performing at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, England.