Mica Paris - Gospel

Published Tuesday 30th November 2021
Mica Paris - Gospel
Mica Paris - Gospel

STYLE: Gospel
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 180641-30023
LABEL: Warner Music

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

First off, full disclosure. Back in 1985 I was Mica's first record producer. sort of. Mica was then the teenage lead singer of a London-based gospel group called Spirit Of Watts about whom I'd heard from Viv Broughton. Viv was the compiler of a black church page for the Afro Caribbean newspaper The Voice. I was a big fan of gospel music and had been asked by Word Records to produce a live album of seven "unknown" artists performing in The Buzz youth events held each night at the Spring Harvest Bible week. So Spirit Of Watts got to sing a couple of songs one night. Two years later Viv Broughton was Mica's manager and had landed Mica with 4th & Broadway Records and the talented teenager was having pop soul hits like "My One Temptation" and "I Never Felt Like This Before". 27 years on from there Mica was presenting a TV programme on gospel music, enthusing about Stormzy and others, and I found myself going to my local record shop to buy her 'Gospel' album. The album title is a tad misleading. Few would call Rag'n'Bone Man's "Human" or Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is" gospel songs, but then an alternative title 'Gospel Songs And Songs Of Spiritual Truth And Positivity' was not a goer. So what of the music? It is truly wonderful. An album of covers (bar one) would usually not impress an ancient journo like this one, particularly one who has spent decades eulogising "Oh Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers or "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke and doubting the wisdom of other artists in covering stone classics. But from the first notes of Labi Siffre's "(Something Inside) So Strong" to the last swirl of violins and violas on "A Change Is Gonna Come" it's clear that this is one of the best albums, "gospel", "soul", "pop" - call it what you will. Mica's vocals are jaw-dropping. Two and a half octaves, getting highs and lows lesser singers can only dream of. She avoids the melisma-obsessed exhibitionism which has ruined the recordings of some modern gospel singers. Also, Mica's interpretative dexterity shows she can wring soul and conviction out of every line. The production by Brian Rawling and Paul Meehan is superlative, managing to make an old spiritual like "Go Down Moses" (which the Fisk Jubilee Singers once sang for Queen Victoria) sound fresh, nimbly sidestepping the temptations of either a self-conscious "retro" exercise or an insensitive grafting on of modern instrumentations in an effort to update old material. So there we have it, great vocal performance, timeless songs and empathetic production. And there's one final plus. 'Gospel' contains an original song, "The Struggle", written by Dee Adam and Mica herself. And such is its bluesy and utterly convincing lyrics that it stands up against all the classic songs that surround it. If you have any interest in soul music or gospel - old or new - this is an album to be listened to. It will instil new hope and maybe new faith to you.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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