North Carolina-born actress and singer Marisha Wallace first came on my radar earlier this year when I saw her perform the role of Effie White in the West End production of Dreamgirls. She stood in for Glee star Amber Riley, who was suffering from illness, and she blew my socks off. I left the theatre glad that I’d got to witness Marisha’s talent and I couldn’t believe she was one of Riley’s understudies. Now Marisha is officially playing Effie following Riley’s departure and in time for Christmas she’s released festive collection Soul Holiday.
The 8 track release starts with Do You Hear What I Hear and it’s clear from the outset that you’re in for a special treat. Rather than phoning it in, which many stars do when it comes to recording a Christmas album, Marisha has really pulled out all the stops to do something different. The loose soul and jazz arrangements give her incredible voice room to breathe and she goes from husky whisper through to powerful belt, sometimes over the course of one lyric.
Marisha soars on Joyful Joyful, a gospel-tinged moment that opens out into an infectious celebration that you can’t help but dance to. She also gives Mariah Carey a bit of competition with the impressive runs she delivers. The song also samples a bit of Janet Jackson’s What Have You Done For Me Lately, which works surprisingly well.
Elsewhere on Soul Holiday Marisha strips it back for wonderful renditions of The Christmas Song and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, she packs a whole lot of soul into Blue Christmas and transforms Oh Come All Ye Faithful into a jazz-meets-gospel spectacular. I’ll Be Home For Christmas brings to mind Erykah Badu at her most playful as Marisha restrains her vocals and incorporates plenty of ad-libs into her vocal.
Soul Holiday comes to an end with I Am Changing, a song that features prominently in Dreamgirls. For this version, Marisha sings accompanied by sparse bluesy instrumentation. She’s changed the sound of the song so that it fits closer with the sound of the rest of the album and it’s a real triumph. It’s the perfect way to close the record.
Soul Holiday is a special record and one that you need to add to your collection of Christmas music. Marisha Wallace is such a remarkable talent and her voice sounds incredible across these songs. I’m completely gutted I didn’t get to see her performing these songs live but I’ll be sure to make sure I see her the next time she performs a concert in London.
Track listing: 1. Do You Hear What I Hear 2. I’ll Be Home For Christmas 3. Oh Come All Ye Faithful 4. The Christmas Song 5. Blue Christmas 6. Joyful Joyful 7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (feat Ross Stanley) 8. I Am Changing Record label: Marisha Wallace Release date: 26th October 2017