The soul “Teddy Bear”, GERALD LEVERT was taken from us far too soon . He died in 2006 aged just 40 but he left a body of recorded work second to none. Oddly, maybe, given his status with the soul cognoscenti, he’s often overlooked in listings of great soul singers while since his untimely death we’ve not had any really significant retrospectives of his work – till now! David Nathan’s ever-excellent SoulMusic Records (via Cherry Red) have just released a magnificent 3CD,  45 track anthology on Gerald that should go some considerable way to winning  our man his rightful place in soul hagiography!

The collection takes tracks from Gerald’s nine solo albums recorded between 1991-2006 – the three albums cut for EastWest America (1991-1998), four for Elektra (1999-2003) and two for Atlantic (2004-2006). The tracks include 20 US charted hits including ‘Private Line’, ‘Baby Hold On To Me’, which featured his father Eddie, 1994’s ‘I’d Give Anything’, and Gerald’s back-to-back 1998 pop/R&B hits ‘Thinkin’ About It’ and ‘Taking Everything’.

As with most SoulMusic sets, there are plenty of rarities. Here you can enjoy  ‘When It’s Right’, only available previously as a bonus track on the Japanese version of Gerald’s sophomore 1994 set, ‘Groove On’; a cover of the Rick James/Teena Marie classic duet, ‘Fire And Desire’, recorded with Sherena Wynn, released on a 1995 cassette single along with remix edits of ‘Can You Handle It’ and ‘I Wanna Be Bad’, all three tracks appearing on CD for the first time.

Those inclusions and indeed the whole album shows a soul man at the top of his game; a soul man who totally understood the genre (mind you he did have a great schooling with Eddie and the O’Jays). Gerald, you’ll hear,  effortlessly blended the traditions of 60s and 70s classic soul music with 80s and 90s sensibilities to  create a distinctive, unique  sound.

The measure of his ability and self-belief shines strongly throughout this collection. For instance he had the bottle to record Bobby Womack’s ‘That’s The Way I Feel About You’ (a duet with Mary J Blige) and get away with it. While listen to his epic take on Burt Bacharach’s ‘They Long To Be Close To You’ (a duet with Tamia) and you’ll hear him do for the song what Luther did with ‘A House Is Not A Home’.

Maybe the most poignant tracks are  those that feature his father, like ‘In My Songs’ (listen to his emotional spoken into) and ‘Eyes And Ears’. But though Eddie might have helped Gerald in the  business, he was a star in his own right – a magnificent soul man. If you doubt that, grab a listen to the aforementioned eight minute plus version of ‘Fire And Desire’!

GERALD LEVERT When It’s Right – The Anthology 1991-2007. Released 21 July via SoulMusic Records/Cherry Red.