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Mica Paris: Born Again *

Album Notes

Like fellow U.K. soul singer Beverley Knight, Mica Paris has never quite captured the record-buying public's imagination in the way that her impressively powerful vocal talents suggest she should have. With Paris now more high-profile than ever, thanks to her presenting role on BBC fashion show What Not to Wear and DJ slot on Radio 2's Soul Solutions, her sixth studio album, Born Again, is a chance to rectify this situation. Lead single "Baby Come Back Now," written by James Morrison, is an authentic Northern soul-influenced toe-tapping stomper that is more than a match for Duffy's chart-topping "Mercy"; the title track is a gorgeous empowering urban ballad, originally intended for Whitney Houston's comeback; and "Hold On" is a melodic slice of acoustic pop with a slight country influence reminiscent of Gabrielle's recent Nashville reinvention. But the several cover versions are where Paris' engaging and controlled vocals really shine through. The contemporary R&B of Eric Benet's "You're the Only One" and Keyshia Cole's "I Remember" are given a sophisticated and timeless Anita Baker-esque treatment, while "Summertime" is a stunning bluesy rendition of the George Gershwin standard, recorded live at the Royal Opera House. A stripped-back acoustic performance of her '80s signature hit "My One Temptation" is pleasant enough, but slightly unnecessary, while "The Hardest Thing" is a misguided attempt at Anastacia-style disco-pop that suggests Paris is far more comfortable when tackling less chart-friendly material. While Born Again's title promises a drastic reinvention, in reality it's the same kind of retro-influenced soul she's produced over the last 20 years. But even though it won't catapult her into the stratosphere, it still cements her reputation as one of the U.K.'s most underrated and gifted soul vocalists. ~ Jon O'Brien



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