Most of us love the good comeback of a diva, and I have to say I stand tall on that with this chanteuse very much indeed. There isn’t a dramatically dark story of drink and drugs standing as a precursor to this particular return to music (though her story is not without its own tragedy), but it is a most welcome return to form nonetheless.
My awareness of it came a few months ago when I heard a track on the radio, a delicious upbeat retro sounding ‘Baby Come Back Now’ and instantly hooked as I was, I thought with eagerness “who is that delivering those soaring vocals?”, only to discover at the end of play that it was none other than Mica Paris.
To the uninitiated, Mica was undoubtedly one of the leading lights on the UK soul scene, launching in 1988 at the age of 17 with her accomplished debut, giving us hits like ‘My One Temptation’ and a cover of the classic ‘Where Is The Love’. Several more successful albums followed, providing part of many people’s soundtrack to life.
Then she seemed to disappear off the radar, at least musically, only to resurface as a television presenter, which is perhaps all that a younger generation will know her for. Of course, they may also remember her as the motivating public voice of the anti-gun crime initiative ‘Operation Trident’, which she took up after the devastating murder of her brother in 2001.
Well I’m hoping now they will discover more, namely that which is her first love, not only with this accomplished new album aptly named ‘Born Again’, her first in seven years, but also by reaching back further into her back catalogue, as I myself am doing once again.
But to the now, and ‘Born Again’. Produced by the legendary Brian Rawling (who most recently gave us the number-one worldwide smash ‘Broken Strings’with Nelly Furtado and James Morrison, who also wrote the album’s first release, the aforementioned ‘Baby Come Back Now’ ), what stands here is a mature and wonderfully soulful collection.
It is difficult to find out a stand-out track here, simply because there are too many. I’m totally hooked on ‘The Hardest Thing’ (and there are some fantastic remixes out there too), probably because it is very personal to my own journey of late and which I’ve been playing daily. This is matched with the up-tempo Rhianna penned ‘Breathless’, which with promise of dance-floor stomp further sets this album out as one of great diversity.
Ballad first comes to the fore in the title track, where she delivers a hauntingly beautiful vocal lifted by sweeping strings, and on hearing this I’d defy anyone with a broken heart not to hope that love can one day return, or in the cover of Keyshia Cole’s ‘I Remember’ and hearing the spiritual cry of ‘Stay’ not find a fall of tears.
Isn’t it great when you just discover a song that speaks your heart: as someone once said put it “music is what feelings sound like”. These are accompanied further with a great acoustic revival of ‘My One Temptation’, and a live rendition of ‘Summertime’, in which she is more than able to hold up against all those legends who have delivered it before. Oh, can this woman sing!
Also worth a mention is ‘Hold On’ where, with a full return to her gospel roots, she gives us inspiration to ride on through and rise on up. As is my wont, I’m shouting a big ‘Hallelujah’ to that.
Growing in appreciation with each consecutive listen, I have little doubt this album is going to keep gaining much air-play within my own circle, and I urge you to do the same. It has been said this is the album of her career, and I can’t argue that. I love many artists, but it is great to discover (or rather, rediscover) a home-grown talent like this lady. This is a real accomplishment.
Welcome back Mica – you’ve been missed.
(first published September 8th 2009)