LEON HAYWOOD: Back To Stay/Keep It In The Family (Shout)

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Soul-wise, Houston’s Leon Haywood is possibly best known for his 1967 sweet and smooth ‘It’s Got To Be Mellow’. But the man’s musical CV has lots to offer from the periods before and after that classic milestone. Prior to ‘Mellow’ Leon had worked with all kinds of people – like The Packers, Dyke and the Blazers and Charles Wright, then, post ‘Mellow’, he came into his own as a solo artist – most notably with 20th Century Records.

Here Clive Richardson’s Shout label offers two of Haywood’s 20th Century albums along with a clutch of same label singles. Of those singles ‘ I Want To Do Something Freaky To You’ became a big seller Stateside in 1975 and much later earned Leon more royalties when it was sampled by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre on ‘Nuthin’ But A G Thang’. The song, of course, is a rather unsubtle plea to get it on but our man shows he can “do it smooth” too on the lilting ‘I Know What Love Is’, while the 1980 chart single ‘Don’t Push It (Let It Happen Naturally)’ is a stab at disco but time has seen it veer to the banal.

The featured LPs are 1973’s ‘Back To Stay’ and ’74’s ‘Keep It In The Family’. Both are stuffed with pleasing examples of 70s pop soul. Most of the songs are Haywood originals but there’s a few covers too – most notably a great version of Bettye Swann’s ‘Make Me Yours’ and an adventurous take on Gene McDaniels’ ‘One Hundred Pounds Of Clay’. You also get Leon’s interpretation of the show song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – the template of which is taken from Roy Hamilton’s 1954 version.

Leon Haywood is still working in the music business. He runs the Evejim label and is part owner of a studio in Los Angeles where the music he works on is a little bluesier than anything on offer here. However, if you’re looking for a 70s soul timepiece, this is a great example.

(BB) 3/5