Starting as the lead vocalist in Black Ivory during the early seventies, Leroy Burgess would go on to become one of the most successful men in music. Leroy wasn’t just a singer, he was a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, arranger and producer. His career started as lead vocalist of Black Ivory, who released two albums in 1972, Baby, Won’t You Change Your Mind and Don’t Turn Around. These two albums were produced by Patrick Adams, who also managed the group. Patrick Adams would play a big part in Leroy’s career, collaborating projects like Bumble Bee Unlimited, Logg, Inner Life, The Universal Robot Band and Dazzle. Each of these groups feature Leroy Burgess’ vocals. Later, as a solo artist, Leroy released Heartbreaker on Salsoul Records, a classic boogie track. After this, Leroy became lead vocalist with Aleem, releasing two albums, 1986s Casually Format and 1987s Shock! Several of these tracks feature on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice, a compilation released by Soul Brother Records in 2002, there are nine tracks featuring some of Leroy Burgess best known work. These include tracks from Aleem, The Fantastic Aleems, Logg and two tracks from Leroy’s solo career, Heavenly and Heartbreaker. Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice was the first of two retrospective compilations of Leroy Burgess’ work, with Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer also released in 2002. However, I’ll review that compilation separately. Before that, I’ll review Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice, choosing some of the highlights of that compilation.

My first choice from Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice is probably Leroy’s the best known track from his solo career, Heartbreaker. Released in August 1983 on Salsoul Records, Heartbreaker was the last  track released by Salsoul before it closed its doors. Not only did Leroy cowrite the track, but arranged and produced it. When the track opens, it’s a combination of a funky rhythm section, squelchy synths and joyous backing vocalists combining. They give way to Leroy’s vocal. His vocal is powerful, passionate and emotive as the backing vocalists combine with him throughout the track. Flourishes of piano, reverberating synths and the rhythm section provide the perfect backdrop for Leroy’s vocal. Along with his joyous, gospel tinged backing vocalists, Leroy creates a stunning track, one that demonstrates his talents not just as a vocalist, but as a songwriter, arranger and producer. 

Logg released Dancing In the Stars in 1981 on Salsoul Records. It was the B-side of (You’ve Got) That Something and arranged and produced by Leroy with Greg Carmichael, with whom he often collaborated with. Both tracks were from the only album Logg released, Logg in 1981. As the track opens, percussion and the funkiest of rhythm sections combine. The bass line is so funky, it tests the tolerance of your speakers. Keyboards then make their appearance, as gradually, the arrangement unfolds. Female vocalists enter, before squelchy, eighties sounding synths signal the arrival of Leroy’s impassioned vocal. While he delivers his vocal, a compelling combination of percussion, rhythm and synths produce a sound that’s quite unlike earlier Salsoul releases. Like these tracks, this track has one similarity…quality. Together with the female backing vocalists, rhythm section and a myriad of percussion, Leroy’s vocal plays a huge role in the success of this post-disco track. 

The Fantastic Aleems released Hooked On Your Love in 1980, on NIA Records. This track features not just Leroy’s vocal, but Calebur and Luther Vandross, who sang backing vocals with Ullanda McCullough. Leroy co-produced the track, while John Morales mixed it. Pounding drums and percussion open the track, before you think the track will literally burst into life. However, you’re just being teased. Bursts of keyboards signal more percussion and another flourish of piano. Then after a minute, the track starts to reveal its charms. The rhythm section, keyboards, cascading strings and a flourish of piano signal the arrival of a female vocal. It’s loud, joyful accompanied by dancing strings and a funky bass. They give way to Leroy’s vocal which is emotive, accompanied by punchy backing vocals and an arrangement that combines drama and a lushness, thanks to the dancing disco strings. From there, this disco track gets even better, with Leroy’s vocal and production key to this irresistible and timeless track’s success. 

Leroy Burgess was the lead vocalist of Aleem, releasing two albums, 1986s Casually Format and 1987s Shock! They released Get Loose in 1984, which Leroy cowrote with Sonny Davenport. They both produced the track with Taharqa and Tunde Ra Aleem. With a combination of rhythm section, synths, backing vocalists and percussion a quite different sounding track to Hooked On Your Love gets underway. This tracks has more of an electro-funk sound. However, like Hooked On Your Love and other tracks on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice, Leroy’s vocal is at the heart the track’s success. While handclaps, a wash and stabs of synths, the rhythm section and backing vocalists all play their part in the track, it’s the emotion and passion in Leroy’s vocal that make this such a compelling slice of electro-funk. 

The last track I’ve chosen to mention is another track by Logg, I Know You Will. Like  Dancing In the Stars, which features on their 1981 Logg. It was released as a single in 1981. Arranged and produced by Greg Carmichael and Leroy, from the track’s opening bars you realize that this track is more than a little special. This is because this is the rare eleven minute version, which previously, could only be found on the B-side of the US version of (You’ve Got) That Something. Leroy’s accompanied by joyous backing vocalists, while the rhythm section, keyboards and flourishes of percussion combine. Of the nine tracks on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice, this to me, is one of his best. When combined with the backing vocalists and an arrangement that’s variously powerful, dramatic and uplifting, the result is one of the best tracks on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice.

Although I’ve only chosen to review five of the nine tracks on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice, there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with the other four tracks. Quite the opposite, the nine track on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice, include some of the best music of Leroy’s career as a vocalist. These include two tracks from his solo career, two with Aleem and The Fantastic Aleems, plus three from his time as a lead vocalist with Logg.  There are two ways of looking at this compilation. You can view it as  almost, the perfect introduction to Leroy Burgess career as a singer. Conversely, you can argue that there’s much more to his career as a singer, than his work with these three bands. Why there isn’t a track from his time with Black Ivory seems strange, given it was with Black Ivory that Leroy made his recording debut. Now I could argue quite rightly that given Aleem, Logg and The Fantastic Aleems were important parts of Leroy’s career as a singer and the music is some of the best of his career, so they should each feature twice, or in Logg’s case three times. However, just as important was his work with Black Ivory. Two tracks from Black Ivory features on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer, albeit two tracks from their 1978 album Hangin’ Heavy, which Leroy wrote and arranged. In some ways, regardless of how good the music on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice is, this compilation was a missed opportunity. Surely this was an opportunity to produce a much more comprehensive compilation. Nine tracks hardly do justice to Leroy Burgess’ career, and even a double album would’ve only scratched the surface. An artist of Leroy Burgess stature and importance, deserves a much more comprehensive retrospective of his career as a singer. However, for anyone wanting to discover Leroy Burgess’ career as a singer for the first time, then this is the perfect place to start. Standout Tracks: Leroy Burgess Heartbreaker, Logg Dancing In the Stars, The Fantastic Aleems Hooked On Your Love and Aleem Get Loose.


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