Imagination feat. Leee John
We have much time for Leee John. He makes great records, can readily turn his hand to jazz and we have never seen him give a bad performance, rather he has given some of the best we have seen, singing like an angel and giving his muscular band room to explore the funk. Here we have a set of twelve new songs plus some extra’s. And very welcome, too.
Starter cut Utopia has a fantastic spacey opening, flute and wah guitar, settling into a Philly-flavoured groove, taking its time. At the minute-mark, our man starts to sing in his alto voice. The backdrop is simultaneously airy and warm. The backing vocals rich and the bass mining the deep. Auditioning for EWF, Leee ? haha..it’s a fine start to the album. Dig that flute solo over emphatic drumming!
Secrets hits a hard beat and doesn’t let up, that EWF feel again in evidence. Leee tells of a night out. Tunefulness to the fore, this is so well-handled it sounds as though the guilty-pleasure-themed song has been around forever. A fluid Blue Note guitar runs sounds just right. Fantasia is another rhythmic trip, John singing like he has to be heard. In passing, the basslines on these tracks is ace, fat and melodic.
Solitude is somewhat darker in mood, almost like a detective film vibe. Acoustic guitar rides the semi-tone switch. Leee lays back on the vocal, holding back….
Do It Right Now dances in on a busy tempo, with Old Skule synth, quite irresistible and maybe a hint of Hall & Oates ? Strummed acoustic guitar anchors Hello Goodbye so Leee can sing clearly in this uncluttered setting. A truly lovely song, delivered with tenderness and maximum melody. It’s not just Leo Sayer that can work this style ! A salute to the string arranger. Tell Her Love Has Felt The Need finds John singing over a heavy syncopated backing that almost makes him sound fragile. The chord sequence is interesting.
Highway To Hell is all choppy guitars – it is the AC/DC tune! – and one of the better songs here. John employs a rockier voice but still sounds himself. Leee , you GOTTA do this live ! Brighter Day has Paul Simon electric piano (Richard Tee, that is) and John sings in a slightly deeper range than he usually employs. The ghost of Pops Staples smiles down….flog this one to Cliff Richard, it’s in his range, too!
Make Your Mind Up is upbeat and hand-clapping stuff, a set-opener, amigo? The Best I Could evokes super-sessioneers Stuff as the instrumental intro starts, the singing is very light-touch and catchy. Final composition Visions is the Stevie Wonder song and John does it justice. Four bonus tracks follow but I’ll leave you to discover these for yourselves.
This album is a great journey through the many styles Leee John can deliver. And they are impressive, all of them.