Here’s the first of the season’s big soul albums… the wonderful Maysa’s interpretations of a selection of Christmas favourites, a gospel classic and one new song. And it’s that new song that proves to be the album highlight – simply because it’s fresh. Tune in question is a gentle ‘It’s The Holidays’. Written by Maysa and producer Chris “Big Dog”, it’s a gentle little samba of a song that offers a new twist to the season.
The rest is all too familiar, though in fairness Ms Leak and producer Davis do try to inject some new ideas into proceedings. On ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ , for instance, the percussion is Brazilian (all be it restrained Brazilian) instead of the usual military, while on ‘The Night Before Christmas’ the spoken intro is rendered in a rap fashion by Jigz…. don’t think it works though .
Elsewhere there’s readings of chestnuts like ‘Joy To The World’, ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘The First Noel’ and ‘Silver Bells’ which features a jazzy sax cameo from Gerald Albright. Best of the familiar songs is a cover of Donny Hathaway’s ‘This Christmas’. It’s just a great song anyway and, because of its provenance, best suited to the soul idiom. Maysa’s helped out on this version by the always-welcome Will Downing and the voices blend beautifully on what is a fairly restrained interpretation.
The album’s big set piece ends proceedings – a cover of Edwin Hawkins’ ‘Pray For Peace’. The sentiment has never been more apposite and Maysa offers a respectful version complete with gospel choir who add rich counterpoint to Maysa’s warm and soulful lead…. and it’s THAT remarkable voice that gives this collection its appeal. Ms Leak’s instantly identifiable, honey-toned voice is always worth the entrance ticket!