Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions
MDGS Records (release date: March 6, 2020)
By Bob Marovich
If you didn’t know better, you’d think that the fourth volume of songs by Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions is a long lost vinyl album from the 1970s, but it’s as recent as today’s breakfast.
The disc reunites David, born and educated in New York and living in Holland since 1994, with Holland multi-instrumentalists Onno Smit, Toon Oomen, and Paul Willemsen. The album follows and responds to a series of highs and lows for the aggregation. Highs: Volume 3 earned awards, critical acclaim, and the chance to appear before the King and Queen of the Netherlands. Lows: In the midst of it all, songstress David was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Her recent recovery gives the album a victorious feeling (to wit, one of the tracks is titled “Victory!”). And from the sounds of David’s sultry soprano, any energy that the cancer and the subsequent treatment took from her has returned in full. Her sassy and soulful delivery, which makes each song pop, combined with a top-notch and relentlessly-driven rhythm section, are what the ensemble terms Rhythm & Gospel.
With its litany of affirmations, the album’s debut single “You Are” moves to an incessant Afro beat. “Don’t Give Up” is a declaration of no surrender. “Oh My My,” another ode to steadfastness in the face of trouble, shuffles along with a rock steady beat. Moods and modes change from one cut to another but within an overall retro vibe and all smartly arranged.
“Yes I Am,” the second single, is about helping one another. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” David asks, and the group responds, “Yes, I Am.” It’s set to a creamy combination of chords and brass, like a Chicago-meets-Memphis soul fellowship. It as if the spirit of producer Carl Davis was twisting the control knobs. “Love,” a song of gratitude to the Most High, has a Diana Ross-meets-Amy Winehouse feel.
Over an intense rhythm line, a memorable bass riff, and incisive blasts from the brass section, the band handles the vocals for the chorus of “Myshel” as David chants Psalms 100 and 121.
Despite the diagnosis and the difficulties of treatment, Michelle David concludes by singing on “Second Chance” that “if I had the chance to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a single thing.”
Much tighter as an album than Volume 2 but with the same multi-genre vibe, Volume 4 will appeal to fans of gospel as well as retro soul and R&B. Yes, we are our brother’s keeper, and this album is a keeper, too.
Five of Five Stars
Picks: “Love,” “Yes I Am”