Anika Paris

On Gardner Street

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Short of Celine Dion, you'd have been hard pressed to find a more warm and engaging adult contemporary artist in the late '90s than Anika Paris. This isn't to say that Paris sounds anything like Dion on her debut album, On Gardner Street; her singing is more like a combination of Carole King and Shania Twain with occasional hints of Chrissie Hynde (although she doesn't get into the type of tough, in-your-face rock that the Pretenders are known for). But like Dion, the big-voiced Paris knows how to bring soul and humanity to commercial, radio-friendly pop fare. Those who find a lot of adult contemporary music bland, vanilla, and mechanical can't honestly make that claim about this CD; as slick and commercial as songs like "Fumbling," "Walk in Your Shoes," and the wildly infectious single "It's About" are, Paris never sounds sterile or comes across as the product of a musical assembly line. The singer makes the material sound personal, and the fact that she wrote or co-wrote all of the songs herself certainly doesn't hurt. King, to be sure, is a strong influence on Paris' writing and singing, but if you listen closely, there are times when her voice takes on a mildly Hynde-ish quality. In 1999, this promising debut begged the question, "Why can't all adult contemporary releases sound this personal?"

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