Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions
It’s a Soulful Christmas
(release date: November 27, 2020)
By Robert M. Marovich
Holland’s Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions lend their stripped-down small-combo Sixties soul stylings to new and classic Christmas songs on It’s a Soulful Christmas.
Looking a little like a Columbia Records release from the Sixties, the album art telegraphs the retro sounds within. David channels the coquettish soprano of Diana Ross throughout the project, most especially on the nearly note-for-note cover of Stevie Wonder’s quintessentially Motown “What Christmas Means to Me.”
While the perky single “This Christmas (I’ll Be By Your Side)” also has a Motown Funk Brothers vibe, its sassy lyrics about Yuletide love, and even the use of parentheses in its title, pay homage to Phil Spector’s holiday album. David offers the listener a winking acknowledgement of the Spector reference when she declares that there is “no river too deep, no mountain too high” to keep her away from her love.
To a rock ‘n’ roll beat, “A Christmas Cliché Thing” is a clever sendup of the various generic messages of cheer that emanate from popular Christmas songs. Another soul reference is embedded in the title track, when David and team interpolate the “sunroof top” lyric from Walter DeVaughn’s 1974 “Be Thankful for What You Got.”
Some songs contain a more religious message. “He Came from Love” is about Christ’s love, brought forth at Bethlehem. To a Bo Diddley beat, “Mary” answers the Christmas song “Mary Did You Know” by arguing that yes, she most certainly did know she was carrying Jesus the Christ and even foresaw his fate at Calvary. As such, “Mary” combines Christmas and Easter into one tale.
“God Will” is an upbeat, and thus more sonically hopeful, version of the typically-plodding hymn “God Will Take Care of You.” The background singers ad lib on God’s constancy during “Silent Night.”
While not quite topping the group’s stunning Volume 4, released earlier this year, It’s a Soulful Christmas is cracking good Christmas fare.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “What Christmas Means to Me,” “This Christmas (I’ll Be by Your Side)”