When Curtis Mayfield left The Impressions in 1971 he was replaced by Leroy Hutson. It was an obvious choice, as Leroy had been a protege of Curtis as a member of The Mayfield Singers, a group put together by the great man. Leroy's smooth, soft, soulful voice fitted in perfectly with the Impressions' sound and he recorded two albums for the group for the Curtom label. When he left two years later to follow a solo career Leroy enjoyed success with a series of high quality albums for Curtom including Love Oh Love, The Man!, Hutson and Closer To The Source. He also enjoyed a degree of chart success in the black singles charts during the seventies, but although his reputation was growing, he remained something of a cult among die hard soul fans.
Last night, at the Union Chapel in London, he showed that at the age of 71 he has lost none of his vocal quality, with a sweetly soaring voice which stayed faithful to his original recordings. He also looked great too - much younger than his real age - dressed in a multi coloured jacket and red cap. Disappointly, though, he sang only seven of the 11 numbers in his set, the remainder being split between young British soul diva Gizelle Smith and his highly proficient eight piece backing band The Baltic Soul Orchestra.
Leroy's own vocal numbers included some of his best known tracks including All Because Of You, Lover's Holiday, Love The Feeling, It's Different and Lucky Fellow, with an encore of So Nice. I particularly enjoyed So In Love With You, a song which would certainly have suited Curtis himself, The stage was set up with keyboards, but Leroy spent little time playing them, leaving the backing to the band. Their take on his funk hit Blackberry Jam was effective. Gizelle also did a good job on her two numbers, Leroy's compositions Trying To Get Next To You and Cashing In, originally recorded by Arnold Blair and The Voices of East Harlem respectively (thanks to Dave Carroll for this bit of research). The audience, which included will.i.am in the row in front of me, clearly enjoyed Leroy's quite beautiful vocal ability, but no doubt would have wanted more: the show lasted less than an hour and considerably less time than that of Leroy himself. So I have mixed feelings about this one. Someone near me said that they felt short changed, and I can see what they meant. But this was the first time I've seen Leroy so at least it's now possible to put a face to the voice.