The Secret Garden

"The Secret Garden"

[song written El DeBarge, Siedah Garrett, Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton]

Smooth Soul Survivor is a concept that leverages memorable soul hits from the sixties or seventies that through time have become much covered gems.  However, even the best music often needs a little accommodation and so it is with this latest selection, the DeBarge - Garrett - Jones - Temperton composition ‘Secret Garden'.  It was featured on the 1989 milestone recording from Quincy Jones and, although the rules have had been bent a little to make ‘Secret Garden' a Smooth Soul Survivor, it is nevertheless an incredible song that has first rate smooth soul credentials.

"The Secret Garden"

[song written El DeBarge, Siedah Garrett, Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton]

Smooth Soul Survivor is a concept that leverages memorable soul hits from the sixties or seventies that through time have become much covered gems.  However, even the best music often needs a little accommodation and so it is with this latest selection, the DeBarge - Garrett - Jones - Temperton composition ‘Secret Garden'.  It was featured on the 1989 milestone recording from Quincy Jones and, although the rules have had been bent a little to make ‘Secret Garden' a Smooth Soul Survivor, it is nevertheless an incredible song that has first rate smooth soul credentials.

By 1989 the career of Quincy Jones had already spanned four decades.  He was then and is now recognized as a writing, performing and producing legend who will probably be best remembered as the guiding light behind the greatest work of Michael Jackson.  This was the year that Jones made his debut on his own label and, despite the fact that eight years had passed since the release of his critically acclaimed ‘The Dude' on A&M, his new album, ‘Back On The Block' proved to be his most extravagant, most star-studded and most brilliantly sequenced pop album to date.

Everything about the ‘Secret Garden' project is interesting, not least the composers.  Co writer Rod Temperton also has Michael Jackson connections.  His classic 1979 composition ‘Rock With You' was a big hit for Jackson and Temperton, keyboard player and former leader of disco fusion band Heatwave, also wrote Michael Jackson's 1982 hit ‘Thriller'.  In addition he gained an Academy Award nomination for the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘The Color Purple', co-written with Quincy Jones.

Also listed in the credits for ‘Secret Garden' is El DeBarge.  Born June 4, 1964 in Grand Rapids MI he is best known as lead singer with the 80's group DeBarge.  As well as co-writing ‘Secret Garden' DeBarge also featured on Jones' recording of the tune.  It topped the R & B chart in 1990 and this romantic jewel became a staple for nearly every touring R&B act with, in particular, Ray Goodman and Brown doing a splendid concert rendition.  As well as the vocals of DeBarge the original recording included Al B Sure, James Ingram and Barry White who each took vocal turns in seducing some mystical woman by employing their own brand of magic and charm.  Quincy Jones had brought Ingram into the project when Stevie Wonder couldn't make the session and Jones enlisted another of the co-writers, Siedah Garrett, to sing background behind the parts vocalised by Sure and DeBarge.

The Quincy Jones original, as would be expected, can be found in several places including ‘Back On The Block' (1989), ‘Soul Train Hall Of Fame 20th Anniversary' (1994) and ‘From Q With Love' (1999).  Nearest perhaps to the soul of the original is by Barry White.  The song is an obvious vehicle for his unique talents and can be found on his 1992 release ‘Just For You'.

Elsewhere, the currently resurgent Philippe Saisse featured ‘Secret Garden' on his 1995 album ‘Masques' while flugel horn player Tony Gurrero made it part of his ‘Now And Then' recording in that same year.  The excellent Pamela Williams included it on her 1996 release ‘Saxtress' and a personal favourite is the treatment of it provided by Brian Culbertson, not once but twice, on his 1999 Atlantic recording ‘Something Bout Love'.  Still featured as part of many of his live shows, the instrumental version has Steve Cole on sax, Paul Jackson Jr on guitar and Lori Perry handling background vocals.  Later in the album the vocal version hands the lead to Howard Hewett.  Both are great tracks that glisten with the production skills for which Culbertson has become famous.

The real pick of the bunch is the ‘sax in the garden jazzy instrumental mix' by Quincy Jones that retains the Barry White introductory rap but overlays a stunning sax performance by Kirk Whalum.  This is real knock out stuff and comes highly recommended.  Find it on 1996 release by Beechwood music entitled ‘JazzFusions Four'.

Such is the power of ‘Secret Garden' that in the years to come it is sure to appear time and time again as a genuine Smooth Soul Survivor.

Denis Poole

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