“Naked” – a retrospective review of Louise’s 1996 debut album
Louise Nurding, as she was then, had enjoyed big hits but unhappy times with the group, Eternal, from late 1993 to the end of 1994. The quartet had notched up six top twenty UK singles and a quad-Platinum selling debut album but internal pressures within the members had caused Louise to leave the band at the beginning of 1995 and pursue a solo career by herself. She wasted no time and, mostly working with Eternal songwriters Dennis Charles and Ronnie Wilson, production on her own first album began straight away. She released the single, “Light of My Life”, in September that same year, ironically as her former band mates released their brand new single, “Power Of A Woman”.
It was “Power Of A Woman” that charted higher than Louise on her own, No.5 vs No.8 in the UK, so perhaps releasing a ballad just after the Summer was not such a good choice against an uptempo R&B number. Production of what would become her debut album was still in its infancy and Louise would not return a follow up until February the following year. A cover of US girl group Exposé’s earlier 1994 release, which had not done particularly well in America, despite the fact it was written by hitmaker, Diane Warren. Louise took her version to No.17 in the UK. May saw the release of a third helping with the single, “Naked”, a risqué title, but one which worked as it put Louise in the top five of the UK singles chart. “Naked”, meaning solo and on her own, would become the title of the album, so let’s see what was on offer:
The title track opens with synth guitars and a pumping, funky vibe. Sexy, yet innocent with Louise’s ‘light’ and fluffy vocals, this was Louise separating herself from the chains and also any comparison with her former group’s sound. Louise capitalises on her attractiveness to a male audience with this track and also ropes them in to her as a singer and the song itself. The campaign and promotion of “Naked” worked a treat as it found favour with radio stations and fans of Louise, enough to peak at No.5 in the UK and be a solid introduction to the album itself, a month later.
2. In Walked Love
US girl group Exposé were never popular in the UK, despite having nine US top ten hits and a number one with “Seasons Change” in 1987. Their third, self-titled album, was released in 1992 and featured the Diane Warren written song, “In Walked Love“, which was released as the fourth and final single in early 1994. It wasn’t a hit by any means and neither was the album, but in early 1996, Louise recorded her version and took it to No.17 in the UK, not such a great chart placing as her debut had been, and perhaps there were concerns that Louise’s solo career would falter after that. “In Walked Love” is a good song but perhaps not strong enough to be single-worthy…?
3. Light Of My Life
Louise’s debut single, released in September 1995, was this piano ballad, “Light Of My Life”, co-written by Simon Climie, once of Climie Fisher fame. The song is a true delight. Strings backing keyboards and this is the first real chance we get to hear Louise’s vocal ability aware from the restricted confines of Eternal, which did seem to be dominated by one of the four other members! This fully deserved to be a big hit as it’s just simply gorgeous in production and just a joy to hear Louise’s baby vocals describe the experience of meeting that special someone. She even whispers “Oh baby, I…” in the middle-eight! The song made the UK top ten although you can’t help but wonder how much higher it could have achieved if released a bit later in the year…
4. The Best That You Bring
Happy, upbeat vibes continue with a very Eternal sounding track, “The Best That You Bring”, reminiscent of “So Good”. A typical mid-90’s pop tune that works fine as an album filler and a welcome break from ballads and the two slow-paced songs that go before it.
5. One Kiss From Heaven
I spoke too soon! Back to ballad territory with “One Kiss From Heaven”, although not the traditional piano ballad that “Light Of My Life” is, a more sultry, groovy down-tempo number. Louise pouts and purrs “Only you can release me”, over and over, she really wants that one kiss so badly! This is Louise, perhaps, breaking the sweetly sweetness of her appearance at that time, ever more so than with “Naked”. The song, however, became a fan favourite and it was released as the fifth and final single from the album in November 1996, reaching No.9 in the UK, giving Louise four top ten hits out of five singles released.
6. Thinkin’ Bout You Baby
Now this is more like it! Ears burning with screeching guitars and synths as Louise raises the roof with “Thinkin’ Bout You Baby” and if ever there were a track on this album that just screamed out for single release, then it’s this one, perhaps even more so than “In Walked Love”! This is a fast-moving pop/dance number with a great, constant beat from the moment everything is thrown in with no into or build-up and the tone and key changes throughout it, making this an addictive and standout song and one you will return to, I promise you! Awesome.
Louise herself takes co-songwriting credit for the first time with the funky, once again, Eternal sounding “Discussions”. You can’t help but feel much of this album is simply an extension of what she was already doing, just without three other people present. Again, as with “The Best That You Bring”, this is a fine album filler track with a great chorus that is instantly memorable and singable in a few listens.
8. Undivided Love
We veer off track from the Eternal sound to something more individual with the great “Undivided Love” with superb backing vocal support for Louise as she dances and kicks her way through this poptastic feast of groovy beats and vocal highs, once more from the pen of Mr. Simon Climie. The song received a slight remix when it became the fourth single in August 1996, reaching No.5 in the UK, equaling “Naked”s chart high in her home country. Another one for saving and repeating back…”you’ll taste the sweetest love, you’ll ever know”!
9. Back To Love
Louise pops up with another writing credit on the smooth, down-tempo soul number, “Back To Love” next as we take a break from the more energetic pop of the last three songs. As with many of the track on this album, “Back To Love” is a good filler track with plenty of sincerity in its lyrics and an inoffensive groove to it.
10. Never Too Late
The same can go for “Never Too Late”, which retains the pace and style of this ‘second half’ of the album. Good, solid album tracks that would all work equally well as B-sides if given the opportunity. Songs that also don’t tax Louise’s vocals too much either, which makes you wonder just what could have been possible had something with a bit more zest to it have been offered up…
11. Goodbye To Love
The tempo moves up, but only slightly, for another portion of easy-pop that all seem to be grouped together here. Not entirely forgettable, but songs that can be skipped if needed – there is better to come! “Goodbye To Love” is another Eternal-ish B side from Charles and Wilson that lacks all the superb attributes of their earlier offering, “Thinkin’ Bout You Baby”.
12. That’s The Way I Like It
I promised you something better was coming and here it is. “That’s The Way I Like It” cranks up the rhythm and bass and the energy we left four tracks ago. Charles, Wilson and Louise all contribute to this great pop number that, along with “Thinkin’ Bout You Baby”, is the only other track that really stands out as a potential/possible single that could have been from the album. The lyrics are not too complicated as whatever Louise is thinking or feeling, it all comes back to “That’s The Way I Like It”! I like it. If only EMI Records had liked it enough to put it out as a single.
13. Fly Away
After another superb should-have-been single, Louise keeps the sassiness going with “Fly Away”, very much “Naked” part two, cool and spunky, this sometime-sampled, funky R&B tinged number is one of the stronger songs on the second half of the album, so perhaps all is not lost after such a promising opening.
14. I Gave You My Love
Louise closes her debut album with another slice of inoffensive pop, another album filler and B side potential usage with “I Gave You My Love”. It’s not a bad song but not worthy of closing the album and perhaps one of two too many additions to this first long player that could have been shortened for more impact and to keep your attention throughout.
Louise released “Naked” on 24th June 1996, a month after the title track and third single had already come out. It would peak at No.7 in the UK and eventually earn a Platinum certification for sales of 300,000 copies in her home country. Although her success was confined to that territory, it lead to consistent and solid sales and chart positions for the next seven years, with her 1997 follow up, “Woman In Me”, also receiving a Platinum disc right up to her final top ten charting single, “Pandora’s Kiss”, in 2003 and her best of album in 2001.
After some considerable time away from the music industry, Louise made a triumphant return in 2020 with the album, “Heavy Love“, which peaked at No.11 and spawned no less than seven single/video releases. But it is, perhaps, her debut release that still remains her best work and certainly the album which established her as an artist on her own, away from the ‘firey’ fifteen months of Eternal. 25 years on, “Naked” is a product of its time. A mid-90’s pop album that offends no one with its production or sound and does just the job that was required back then, and still does today!