LEROY BURGESS-ANTHOLOGY VOLUME 2: THE PRODUCER.

LEROY BURGESS-ANTHOLOGY VOLUME 2: THE PRODUCER.

Having reviewed Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice, I decided that I’d review the follow-up or companion compilation Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer. Given the title, you’d expect this compilation to feature some of the many artists who’ve benefited from Leroy Burgess’ production skills. Not quite. Instead, the compilation features artists who Leroy has worked with. This explains why there are two tracks from Black Ivory, and tracks from Convertion and Class Action, neither of which were produced by Leroy on the compilation. Among the eleven tracks on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer, are tracks from Fonda Rae, Dazzle, Dino Terell, Mainline and Caprice. Each of these eleven tracks were either written, arranged or produced by Leroy Burgess. There are also two tracks from Black Ivory, the group that gave Leroy his recording debut, leading to a long and illustrious musical career. On Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer are eleven tracks either written, arranged or produced by Leroy. I’ll now pick five of the best tracks from the compilation.

Black Ivory were one of the biggest, most successful groups on the Perception and Today labels. Discovered and produced by Patrick Adams, Leroy was a member of the group until 1972. Six years later, two songs he wrote Hustlin’ (You Gotta Be Dancin’) and Mainline featured on their 1978 album Hangin’ Heavy, released on Buddah Records. These two tracks feature on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer Hustlin’ (You Gotta Be Dancin’) and Mainline. Of the two, my favorite is Hustlin’ (You Gotta Be Dancin’), with Stuart Bascombe singing the lead vocal. Leroy sang backing vocals, and arranged both the vocal and rhythm parts. With rasping horns, driving rhythm section and chiming guitars accompany Stuart’s vocal, the track reveals its beauty and charms. Lush strings, percussion and backing vocals all enter. Bursts of blazing horns punctuate the arrangement, while Stuart’s vocal play’s an important part in the arrangement. Later, the pounding, funky rhythm section, swirling strings and backing vocals all contribute towards making this joyous, uplifting track one of the highlights of the compilation.

Released in 1982 on Vanguard Records, Fonda Rae’s Over Like A Fat Rat was arranged by Leroy Burgess and produced by Bob Blank. Here, Fonda Rae gets the opportunity to display her diva-esque vocals. As the track opens it’s just a lone bass that you hear, before a drum, piano and handclaps enter. From there, the track begins to reveal its secrets. Keyboards join the mix, then Fonda’s vocal, which is laden with emotion, as she begins to reveal a powerful and impassioned vocal. Here, the tempo is slower than the Rainbow Brown track, just 105 beats per minute. However, one thing stays the same, the quality of Fonda’s vocal and similarly, the quality of the arrangement. It’s what you’d expect from Leroy Burgess, and what you’d expect on a track baring the label Vanguard Records.

High Frequency were an offshoot of Aleem, which featured Leroy Burgess as lead vocalists. Summertime was released in 1980, on NIA Records, with Leroy co-producing the track with brothers Taharqa and Tunde Ra Aleem. The track was recorded at the same time as Hooked On Your Love, a track from Aleem on  Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice. Featuring Leroy’s lead vocal, the track just bursts into life, at 131 beats per minute. It’s just percussion, dark synths, keyboards and cascading strings that combine, before Leroy’s vocal, accompanied by backing vocalists, enters.Together,  Leroy and the backing vocalists totally change the track. Leroy’s vocal is impassioned and emotive, with the backing vocalists variously soulful and dramatic. They’re joined by cascading strings, percussion, a funk drenched rhythm section and synths. Combine this results in a scintillating and totally irresistible slice of hook-laden disco.

Class Action featuring Christine Wiltshire released Weekend on Masterdisk Records in December 1982. Written by Leroy and James Calloway, while Bob and Lola Blank produced the track. Originally, the track was recorded by Phreek and co-prodiuced by Leroy and Patrick Adams. When the track opens, it has a compelling, intriguing sound. Pounding drums and hissing hi-hats are joined by brief flourishes of keyboards, before beefy, squelchy old school synths join the mix. By now, you think the track is heading in the direction of electro-funk. HStabs and washes of synths give way to joyous, soaring backing vocalists, before the sassy lead vocal enters. It’s half-spoken, before becoming powerful and frustrated. Soulful backing vocalists, synths and the rhythm section combine, with the strutting, sassy lead vocal. They all play their part in making this eight minute cover version of Phreek’s original track worthy of the word classic. 

Dino Terrell You Can Do It (It’s So Easy) in 1986, on the New Image label. Written by Leroy Burgess and co-produced by Tommy Green. This is a mid-tempo track has one of the best vocals on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer. Dino’s vocal is powerful, passionate and emotive, accompanied by soaring, soulful backing vocalists. They’re accompanied by a rhythm section that’s funky, while washes of synths, keyboards and strings combine. Together, they produce an arrangement that’s perfect for the vocal. It’s dramatic, punchy and emotive. When the arrangement and vocal are combined, the result is one of the real highlights of the compilation. Not only that, but it demonstrates perfectly how talented a songwriter and producer Leroy Burgess really is.

Like the music on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 1: The Voice, the music on Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer includes some of the many highlights of Leroy’s long and illustrious career. It’s a shame that only eleven tracks were chosen, as there are so many classic tracks that could’ve and some might say should’ve been included. Truly, there are so many tracks that could’ve been chosen that a triple album wouldn’t have done them justice. However, Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer is a perfect primer for anyone wanting to discover the music of Leroy Burgess. I was going to say the production skills of Leroy Burgess, but that wouldn’t be accurate, as several of the tracks were either written or arranged by Leroy, not produced. That however, might be perceived as just splitting hairs, but for anyone new to Leroy’s music, they’d think he’d produced each of the tracks. That isn’t the case. Instead, Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer demonstrates just how multitalented Leroy Burgess really is. Whether it’s as a singer, songwriter, arranger or producer, Leroy Burgess can fulfill each of these rolls, with aplomb. He has played a huge part in music over the years, producing literally hundreds of tracks that cross the musical genres, not just soul, disco and boogie. Leroy’s been involved in so many musical projects, that collecting each of them must be a record collector’s equivalent of climbing Everest. Should you just want a compilation of some of his finest work, then Leroy Burgess-Anthology Volume 2: The Producer is a goo place to start. After that, you can further investigate the riches of Leroy Burgess’ back-catalogue, which will prove to be a majestic voyage of musical discovery. Standout Tracks: Black Ivory Hustlin’ (You Gotta Be Dancin’), Fonda Rae Over Like A Fat Rat, High Frequency Summertime and  Dino Terrell You Can Do It (It’s So Easy). 

LEROY BURGESS-ANTHOLOGY VOLUME 2: THE PRODUCER.


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