Review: The Brian Holland Sessions - MoZella

While VVN Music is dedicated and reports on veteran artists who have been recording for 25 years or more, we occasionally write about newer artists of special merit who actively promote the sounds of an earlier era.

Take a modern singer/songwriter with a smokey, soulful voice, add one of the great songwriters of the past fifty years, and you have the makings of one of the best Motown-style albums to be released in many, many years.

The singer/songwriter is MoZella (born Maureen McDonald), a native of Detroit who first hit the scene in 2005 with her self titled debut EP on Warner/Maverick. Since that time, she has released two additional EPs and two full-length albums leading up to The Brian Holland Sessions on Beverly Martel Records.

The classic songwriter is Brian Holland of Motown's Holland-Dozier-Holland, writer of 25 number 1 singles including Please Mr. Postman, (Love is Like a) Heatwave, How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved By You), and Stop! In the Name of Love.

The two came together over a few weeks and composed the ten songs on this album that are pure throw-back to the sound of 60's soul, both Motown and beyond. This is not imitation, this is the real thing as if these superbly written songs with classic arrangements dropped out of a long lost vault.

The opener, You Don't Love Anyone But Yourself, doesn't actually follow the Motown formula but, rather, sounds like something that would have come from the British female soul singers like Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black and Sandie Shaw.

From there, it's a long string of Motown style mid- and uptempo songs complete with vintage instrumentation...a great summer-time danceable piece of joy. MoZella's vocals are strong over the classic drums, bass and horns that regularly enhanced the music of the Four Tops, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and the Supremes.

It isn't until the final song on the album that MoZella gets the chance to slow things down for the beautiful ballad All to Yourself. It's here that you best hear her ability to sing in a semi-jazz style which has been part of her repertoire (along with pop and soul) for most of her career.

There are going to be people who compare this album to those by Duffy or Amy Winehouse, but this one has a couple of big differences, the high quality vocals of MoZella and the superb songwriting of the singer and Brian Holland.

For those who love true soul music, this one is not to be missed.

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