MAYSA: Love Is A Battlefield (Shanachie)


In their careers most recording artists feel the need at some time to do two specific album projects…. the Christmas collection and the covers one. The musical jury has never agreed on the merits of these projects. Grudgingly many accept the raison d’être of the seasonal set but covers albums provoke much more debate with some commentators describing them as aural equivalents of writers’ block indicating a lack of or a  loss of creativity. One soul man who escaped that kind of criticism was dear old Luther Vandross. His long players bristled with covers and his ‘Songs’ set was a whole collection of ’em. Luther got away with it for two reasons. First he dramatically reconstructed the songs he choose to cover (we need only to point at ‘A House Is Not A Home’) and secondly with THAT voice he could sing anything in anyway and get away with it.

Now Maysa (Leak), a lady with an equally unique and soulful voice, offers her covers album and like Vandross, Ms L succeeds spectacularly. The chief reason (which we’ve just alluded to) is her magnificent voice. The oft quoted cliché is that she could get away with singing the Yellow Pages, so she’s bound to delight with versions of Jerry Butler’s ‘Mr Dream Merchant’ and the Whispers’ ‘Can We Talk’. And therein is another clue to why this album is so appealing. The songs Maysa’s chosen to cover aren’t obvious… she’s taken lesser known songs from the catalogues of people like Atlantic Starr, Natalie Cole, Odyssey, Sam Dees and the Isley Brothers. Why, she’s even got the bottle to tackle a song originally recorded by someone called Justin Bieber! That one, by the way, is ‘As Long As You Love Me’. And to get back to Luther Vandross, Maysa treats us to one of his best too… ‘Because It’s Really Love’.

On that and indeed on most of the tracks Maysa and her producers (amongst them Chris “Big Dog” Davis and Jason Miles) don’t take too many liberties – staying fairly close to the original arrangements with just a garnish of subtle new shadings. The one track that is radically different is the LP’s title cut. Pat Benatar’s ‘Love Is A Battlefield’ in its original incarnation was a brash, slice of AOR; here Ms Leak transforms it into a sensual soul ballad but once again it’s that remarkable voice that is the chief attraction. And without seeming to labour a point that is the attraction of the album… whether it’s on a well-known song, a lesser known tune or a re-imagined classic, Maysa’s pure soul voice is the constant. Hugely recommended!

(BB) 4/5