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Our November reviews include albums by Leroy Hutson, Isaac Hayes, Don Blackman, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly and Patrice Rushen.

“Love Oh Love” by Leroy Hutson (1973)

Leroy Hutson was no blank slate when he released his debut album “Love Oh Love” in 1973. After having played in various vocal groups around his hometown of Newark, NJ, in the 1960s, he studied at Howard University, Washington, D.C., sharing a room with Donny Hathaway and attending classes with Roberta Flack. With Donny Hathaway he wrote “The Ghetto”, before he replaced Curtis Mayfield as the lead singer of The Impressions in 1971. With his first solo album “Love Oh Love” Lee Hutson shows his full potential as producer, singer, songwriter and instrumentalist. His music always sounds elegant and convinces with pleasant grooves, jazzy horns, velvety vocals and sophisticated arrangements. Leory Hutson’s understanding of soul music is clearly following masters like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Furthermore the album contains with “So in Love With You” one of the most beautiful soul ballads of the 70s. It is worth to rediscover “Love Oh Love”.

“New Horizon” by Isaac Hayes (1977)

Isaac Hayes’ comeback album “New Horizon”, released in 1977 on Polydor, was a liberation for the former Stax star. Two cuts demonstrate his outstanding talent in the best way: the deep, lascivious groove of “Moonlight Lovin’ (Ménage à Trois)” and the smooth and meditative “Don’t Take Your Love Away”, one of his best ballads. Hayes recorded the album at the Sigma Sound Studio in Philadelphia. Tom Moulton was responsible for the mix. Groove monster!

“Don Blackman” by Don Blackman (1982)

Don Blackman was already an renowned session musician and composer when he released his self entitled solo debut in 1982. The Jamaica, Queens based pianist toured with Parliament and Funkadelic in the early ’70s, became a founding member of Lenny White’s Twennynine and wrote their hit “Peanut Butter”. His solo album convinced with amazing harmonies, crisp Funk, brilliant Quiet Storm elegance, high-class musicianship and a deep Soul understanding. Always Jazz grounded – Blackman played in Charles McPherson’s band when he was just 15 years old – the eight songs are at an eye level with the work of Roy Ayers, Parliament and George Duke. Poorly promoted this outstanding album wasn’t successful, but over the years its songs were sampled endlessly. The Rolling Stone asked Pharrell Williams years ago what his most played song on his iPod is. “Holding You, Loving You” by Don Blackman was his answer: “I can’t even describe it. Look for it, it’s gonna **** you up!” Blackman’s debut is still an influential and timeless masterpiece.

“Joy and Pain” by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly (1980)

There is something special about R&B and jazz funk of the late ’70s and early ’80s: the best artists – from Earth, Wind & Fire to Don Blackman – blended highest musicianship and sound perfection with deep soul. One of the greatest acts of these times were Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, who combined masterfully Philadelphia soulness with jazz funk and the spiritual approach of Marvin Gaye’s silky soul. Their fourth album “Joy and Pain” is one of the unrivaled masterpieces of this era, that went gold and included with “Southern Girl” one of their biggest hits. For decades a gold mine for rapper, who are digging for grooves and samples, but who will never reach the nucleus of this music: human soul and spirituality

“Straight From The Heart” by Patrice Rushen (1982)

The American jazz pianist, R&B singer, composer, producer and songwriter Patrice Rushen is a fixed star in the Jazz and R&B world for decades. One of my personal favorites is her 82’s album “Straight From The Heart”. Patrice worked on her 7th album with top musicians such as Freddie Washington, Charles Mims JR., Paul M. Jackson and Marlo Henderson. The hit-single “Forget Me Nots” became Patrice’s most famous song, but wasn’t the only album highlight: “Remind Me” is another favorite that seduces with an irresistible groove and the sublime Bossa-driven “(She Will) Take You Down To Love” is a worthy ending to the album. “Straight From The Heart” became Patrice Rushen’s most successful album and an 80s jazz-pop-R&B blueprint, which influenced artists like Anita Baker. This album is an undisputed classic!