For those who think Paris is bubbly TV talking head, hear this and think again.
Daryl Easlea 2010-11-02
Before Strictly Come Dancing and celebrity status, Mica Paris was one of the UK’s greatest soul divas. Whisper a Prayer was her third album and the first away from the hype that surrounded her early releases. After enjoying a modicum of US success, here the 24-year-old was working with what only could be deemed a stellar cast. Listing around 80 players and writers, Island looked at Whisper a Prayer as being Paris’ true breakthrough album.
With backing singers like Siedah Garrett, producers including Narada Michael Walden and Rod Temperton, and writers such as Graham Lyle on board, the album had a remarkable pedigree. As a result, it offers a snapshot of what soul and R&B was up to in the early 90s. When it works, it’s rather beautiful. I Bless the Day is sweet and light, floating along with Paris’ emotive voice at once commanding and sensitive. The Drizabone-mixed swingbeat of Two in a Million is spry and sugary.
The only thing that lets the Whisper a Prayer down is its instrumentation. Take a song as beautiful and passionately delivered as You Put a Move on My Heart. You long for it being recorded at a different time, not with Paris in front of a keyboard with an orchestra setting button and a drum machine. And all the 90s contraptions are present and correct on the album’s opener, I Never Felt This Way Before. It may be ultra-smooth but the overall effect is like a cut-price version of a cut from Anita Baker’s Rapture.
The album made the UK top 20, and no fewer than four singles – I Never Felt Like This Before, I Wanna Hold On to You, Two in a Million and Whisper a Prayer – all made the top 75. But there was a feeling that it wasn’t quite the success that it should have been. Which is a shame, as, for all its faults, Whisper a Prayer is one of the shining beacons of 90s UK soul. For those who think Paris is little more than another bubbly TV talking head, hear this and think again.