Like me, the name Leon Haywood may well be a new one to you but don’t let that stop you from reading further because this one is a bit of a hidden gem. Haywood is best known for his crossover hit “I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You” from 1975 which has been sampled by Public Enemy, Dr Dre, Redman, Aaliyah, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and others.
He was born in Houston, Texas and he’s had a pretty wide and varied musical career including him accompanying Guitar Slim on piano when he was still a teenager, playing keyboards in Sam Cooke’s band and playing on a number of one hit wonder bands’ tunes. His first solo hit on Decca records was “It’s Got To Be Mellow” which reached the giddy heights of #21 in 1967.
So from an artist that I’d heard nothing about previously I was a little taken aback to hear that Naturally was actually his ninth studio album, was originally released in 1980 on the Century Fox label and was at the time his most successful release reaching #22 in the R&B charts.
The album kicks off with “Don’t Push It, Don’t Force It” which is five and a half minutes of mid tempo funk with a great bass line, horn stabs, a fab chorus and it’s no surprise that this tune reached #12 in the UK chart. The album’s opener sort of sets the tone for the rest of the album and that’s no bad thing…the only track that doesn’t follow this funkalicious groove is the epic and soulful “Love Is What We Came Here For”. There’s even a proto-rap on Lover’s Rap which is an early style rap laid over a funky as hell groove.
Track of the album is a difficult one as they’re all of the “winner winner funky chicken dinner” variety but “Don’t Push It…” and “That’s What Time It Is” ( the story of a man weighed down with bills and hardships who decides that he’s “Gonna dance dance all night long”).
This is a very very good record indeed and one that will be getting a good deal of play here. It’s reminiscent of a lot of things (listen and you’ll pick out what folk’s have nicked from it) and you can certainly hear that Haywood’s influence has been taken up by a whole load of modern recording artists. This is the first time it’s been available on CD and all power to BBR for making it available to a new generation of funkateers. The sleeve notes are pretty interesting and there are four bonus tracks on the CD so it’s pretty good value too.