EDDIE LEVERT-I STILL HAVE IT.

EDDIE LEVERT-I STILL HAVE IT.

Never before, has an album title been more apt than Eddie Levert’s debut solo album I Still Have It. What Eddie Levert still has, is one of the best voices in R&B music. Eddie proves the maxim that form is temporary, but class is permanent. After joining The O’Jays in 1958, Eddie’s spent over fifty years as lead singer of Canton, Ohio’s favorite sons. Since then, The O’Jays have released album after album of classy, polished soul. During their time on Philadelphia International Records, not only did The O’Jays become one of the label’s biggest acts and success stories, but released a string of classic album. This included Back Stabbers, Ship Ahoy, Survival, Family Reunion, Message In the Music and Full of Love. That’s not forgetting numerous classic singles, including the joyous Love Train, I Love Music, Livin’ For the Weekend, Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love) and Use Ta Be My Girl. However, there was one thing Eddie Levert hadn’t done in all his years as a singer. He hadn’t released a solo album…until now. His debut solo album is I Still Have It, released in May 2012. Now, as if having Eddie Levert’s debut solo album released isn’t something to shout about from the rooftops, there’s an added bonus. Tom Moulton, the godfather of the remix and inventor of the twelve inch single mixes the album’s twelve tracks. This sees two colossuses of music unite with one common cause, ensuring that Eddie Levert’s debut solo album I Still Have It is a memorable one. Before I tell you whether that’s the case, I’ll tell you about the background to the album.

After fifty-three years in the music business, Eddie Levert decided to record a solo album, which he’d never done before. In writing and recording the music on I Still Have It, it must have proved challenging and even cathartic. On the twelve songs on I Still Have It, Eddie reflects on various aspects of his life. This includes his love for his wife Raquel Capelton, which he sings about on Lonely. He wrote this track about being parted from Rachel for the first time ever, when she embarked upon an expedition to Africa, where she climbs Mount Kilimanjaro. It was during this time they were parted, that Eddie felt such loneliness, that made him realise just how strong his love for Rachel was. 

On Last Man Standing, the title-track and first single released from the album, Eddie broaches one of the most heartbreaking aspects of his life, the death of his two sons Eddie and Gerald. Obviously, this must be the worst thing that can happen to a father, outliving his sons. So, hopefully, writing and recording this track has proved cathartic, helping Eddie to come to terms with such tragic circumstances.

Like these two tracks, the other ten tracks on Last Man Standing were written and produced by Eddie. They’re a combination of ballads and uptempo tracks. Each track features the unmistakable sound of Eddie’s vocals. Unlike other artists, Eddie hasn’t collaborated with modern R&B artists. Strangely and modestly, Eddie feels he has to prove “worthy of being in their presence,” “that he’s an asset to what they’re doing” and that he’s still a “valuable artist.” Personally, I think it’s the other way around, with these artists worthy of working with the great Eddie Levert, a man whose a true legend of music. It’s was along with another musical legend that Eddie collaborated with in the making of I Still Have It. That was Tom Moulton, who remixed the twelve tracks on I Still Have It, Eddie Levert’s debut album, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening I Still Have It is Last Man Standing, a song Eddie wrote about the loss of his two sons, Eddie and Gerald. Listening to the lyrics and Eddie’s vocal, you can hear the hurt and heartache in his voice. His voice is full of emotion, as keyboards, guitars and the rhythm section accompany him. They provide an arrangement that’s bright and uplifting. It’s as if the song is a celebration of his two son’s and their lives.Eddie’s vocal is multi-tracked, so he contributes soulful, backing vocals, that provide a contrast to his powerful, impassioned vocal. However, what makes this such a special, moving and beautiful song, is the lyrics and Eddie’s delivery of them. 

Straight away, on Get Over It, I hear Tom Moulton’s influence. It’s the way the track is mixed, plus the way various instruments sit in the mix. Pounding drums, percussion and a wash of synths open this dance track. Eddie’s emotive, soaring delivery is reminiscent of Teddy Pendergrass, as soulful, swooning female backing vocalists augment his vocal. Synths, pounding drums, flourishes of keyboards and bursts of horns combine as this storming, stomping track unfolds. Later, Eddie vamps his way through the track, his vocal a throaty growl. His vocal plus Tom Moulton’s remixing skills make this a storming dance-floor friendly track for the 21st Century. 

Lonely is a song about Eddie being temporarily parted from his wife Rachel, while visited Africa. Eddie missing Rachel so much, realized just how much he loved his wife. Guitars and percussion give way to Eddie’s emotive, soaring vocal. The rhythm section, guitars and keyboards add to the track’s drama and emotion. By now, Eddie’s voice is full of love, longing and loneliness. Later, backing vocalists sweep in, answering Eddie’s call. As the track progresses, the arrangement builds, growing in power and drama, reflecting the emotion and loneliness in Eddie’s heartfelt vocal. So good is Eddie’s vocal, I wonder why, it’s taken him so long to record his debut solo album?

Jazz tinged guitars and keyboards accompany Eddie as Blown Away begins. Slowly and gradually the track begins to reveal its charms. When the song decides to reveal its secrets, what you hear is a heartbroken Eddie, his voice full of hurt and sadness. He’s accompanied by backing vocals, percussion and flourishes of keyboards that combine with the rhythm section. Later, Eddie bares his soul, while the arrangement grows in power and drama. Female backing vocalists, feed off the Eddie’s vocal, while crystalline, chiming guitars, keyboards and percussion combine, while this seven Magnus Opus reveals its brilliance. Both Eddie’s production and Tom Moulton’s mixing play their part in making this such an outstanding track, full of emotion and drama, plus heartache and hurt.

I Like The Way You Move sees the appearance of the seductive, sensuous side of Eddie Levert. As his vocal enters, it’s husky, full of expectation and desire. As the rhythm section, guitars and keyboards accompany Eddie, the arrangement’s spacious and loose. Later this changes. Now it flows along, trailing bursts of wah-wah guitars and pounding bass in its wake. By then, Eddie’s delivery is powerful and sassy, as he struts his way through the track, with backing vocalists accompanying him on a seductive bedroom ballad par excellence.

Dramatic drum rolls open What If, before Eddie throws a curve-ball that has you grasping thin air. Given the opening bars, you think the track will explode. That isn’t the case. Instead, you hear one of the most beautiful ballads you’ll hear in a long time. Eddie’s vocal is impassioned, while piano, guitars, percussion and drums provide an understated and beautiful backdrop. Female backing vocalists drift in and out of the track, their subtle, soulful strains the perfect accompaniment for one of the most intense, heartfelt vocals from Eddie on I Still Have It. Truly, this beautiful ballad is a joy to behold.

Don’t Get Much Better is one of those joyous tracks where resistance is impossible. It’s better just to settle back, letting the dream team of Eddie Levert and Tom Moulton sweep you along in their wake. Handclaps, stabs of keyboards and the rhythm section combine, before Eddie’s joyous vocal enters. Backing vocalists accompany him, while bursts of horns, keyboards and percussion are sprinkled throughout the arrangement. Meanwhile, Eddie’s vocal is impassioned and emotive, with the backing vocalists responding to his call. The longer the track goes on, the more irresistible and joyous the track is, thanks to Messrs. Levert and Moulton, the real dream team.

Eddie drop the tempo way down on the ballad All About Me And You. This is something Eddie does oh so well. Drums that are slow and spacious, give way to Eddie scatting emotively, while guitars chime, gently. Then when Eddie’s vocal enters, it’s totally heartfelt. His band play gently and subtly, allowing Eddie’s vocal to take centre-stage and shine. Female backing vocalists enter just at the right time. Their addition is just at the right time, adding to the beauty and effectiveness of the track. For me, this isn’t just vintage Eddie Levert, but a track that like the album title says about Eddie… I Still Have It.

A piano played slowly opens I Don’t Want To Be the One, before Eddie’s vocal enters. It’s full of hurt and regret, sung against a minimalist arrangement. Just the piano and flourishes of cymbals and shakers accompany Eddie. This works really well, ensuring you focus on Eddie’s vocal and his lyrics. Later, jazz-tinged guitars enter, as the arrangement grows in drama with keyboards and percussion entering. Still the arrangement has an understated, almost minimalist sound, that allows Eddie’s emotive, heartfelt and quite beautiful delivery.

It’s a funk drenched sound that opens Don’t Lie To Me. Wah-wah guitars, rhythm section, bursts of blazing horns and keyboards accompany Eddie’s grizzled, passionate vocal. Layer upon layer of backing vocalists sweep in, while sizzling guitars and the funky rhythm section produce one of the “biggest” arrangements on the album. Eddie’s vocal has a similar power and boldness, reflecting and suiting the arrangement. Although quite different from other tracks, it shows another side of Eddie Levert.

Hate’n sees a change in style and sound. It’s a much more uptempo track, where soul and funk combine. The track literally bursts into life, so you jump onboard and enjoy the journey. Bursts of punchy horns, chiming guitars and a driving, pounding rhythm section combine with Eddie’s powerful, rasping vocal. Flourishes of keyboards, backing vocalists and rasping horns accompany Eddie as he roars and vamps his way through the track that’s hugely catchy and certainly not short of hooks.

Closing I Still Have It is You’re Always There, another of the ballads on the album. Bursts of horns, guitars and keyboards accompany heartfelt, grateful Eddie’s vocal. The lyrics are about love, and like Lonely, are a paean of adoration to his wife Rachel. Given how beautiful a track this is, she must be a very special lady. Soulful, impassioned backing vocalists sweep in, while one of the best arrangement unfolds. Flourishes of piano and guitar drift in and out, while the rhythm section provide the track’s steady heartbeat. Along with the backing vocalists that accompany Eddie are key to the track’s success and sound. Later, a lone horns drifts seductively above the arrangement, adding the finishing touch to a track as Eddie lays bare his soul. Not only is this a very beautiful, emotive and really moving love song, but the perfect way to close I Still Have It.

When I heard that Eddie Levert had, at long last, finished his debut solo album I Still Have It, I was really excited by the prospect. I couldn’t wait to hear the album, given this was Eddie Levert’s much talked about debut album. For years, there have been rumors that Eddie Levert was releasing his debut solo album. At last it was here and soon, I’d be hearing it. Then I was in for another pleasant surprise…Tom Moulton had mixed it. That was the clincher for me, I had to review the album. For me, this was a real dream team, two true masters at work. One was Eddie Levert, lead singer of The O’Jays, one of the most successful soul groups ever, while Tom Moulton is the greatest remixer ever. Unlike younger remixers, Tom Moulton picks and chooses which projects he gets involved in. He only gets involved in a projects where he’s working with a quality product, which must have one other vital ingredient….soul. Having worked with Eddie Levert during the seventies, when he remixed several of The O’Jays’ tracks, Tom knew Eddie Levert is a class act. So, he knew that his starting point would be music that’s of the highest quality. Eddie didn’t disappoint. On ballads like Blown Away, What If and All About Me And You, Eddie rolls back the years, resulting in vintage Eddie Levert. His voice is peerless, variously full of hurt and heartbreak, plus love and longing. Then on the uptempo tracks like Last Man Standing, Lonely, Don’t Get Much Better, Don’t Lie To Me and Hate’n, Eddie kicks loose. Tom then takes the twelve tracks on I Still Have It and brings out their beauty, bringing them to life in the process. In doing this, you’re able to experience and share the emotions Eddie Levert delivers these twelve songs with. Whether it’s joy, sadness desire or adoration, Eddie’s vocals are at the heart of Tom’s mixes. Adding to the quality of the songs, and Tom’s mixes, are the contributions of Eddie’s multitalented band and backing vocalists. Their part in the album’s success and sound can be underestimated. Tom’s mixes are of the highest quality, proving that he still has so much more to offer music. The same can be said of Eddie Levert, who wrote the twelve tracks on I Still Have It. His voice is just as good and along with Tom Moulton, these two legends of music have ensured that Eddie Levert’s much anticipated debut solo album I Still Have It is well worth the wait. Adding to the good news from Eddie Levert, Eddie says that he’s been working with The O’Jays and very that soon, they’ll be releasing a new album. In the meantime, Eddie Levert’s debut album I Still Have It is an album to buy and then treasure forevermore. Standout Tracks: Get Over It, Blown Away, Don’t Get Much Better and You’re Always There.

EDDIE LEVERT-I STILL HAVE IT.

2 Comments

  1. JJ

    I wonder who says Tom Moulton did? I can’t get any Tom’s credit on this CD or any article…

    • Hi JJ,

      I spoke to a friend of Tom’s when I was writing the article and he told me that Tom Moulton mixed the album. This is indeed the case. Although Eddie produced the album and Tom mixed it. Tom hasn’t been credited on the album it seems. This will be sorted. After I wrote the review, I noticed in a review on Amazon.com that someone also mentioned that Tom mixed the album. Hope that helps.

      Best wishes,
      Derek

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