Leon Robinson, lead singer of Leon and the Peoples and also just known by his first name, is an actor with a career going back to the 1980s. He’s best known for starring in the beloved Disney film Cool Runnings and appearing on the prison drama Oz. Fittingly enough, many of his roles have had a musical motif to them. He was David Ruffin of The Temptations and Little Richards in TV biopics, and the saint in “Like a Prayer,” the ultra-controversial video that famously lost Madonna a Pepsi endorsement and was the go-to example of a pop star upsetting the Pope until Sinead O’Connor. On the new record Love Is A Beautiful Thing, released by the Spectra Music Group, Leon brings his vocal charisma to accompaniments that mix reggae, neo-soul, and funk. It’s a varied album, alternating between slow jams and dance tracks while keeping a consistent groovy mood that really works.
“Beautiful,” the first song, is almost instantly hypnotic with its twangy bassline and chilly piano. It is one of a couple times that Love Is A Beautiful Thing reminded me of Sade, who used a similar intersection of R&B and Caribbean beats. It’s hard to overstate how strong the hook is for this one—as far as first impressions for albums go, it’s a good one. The influence of eighties funk and R&B is strong on the disc, as “No Good For Me” attests to. A peppy horn section and synths give the song a retro swing with a bit of a Morris Day vibe. On that note, the excellent closing track “R U Ready Tonight” has a shout-out to the “oh-we-oh” refrain from The Time’s “Jungle Love” that put a big smile on my face.
The reggae sound on songs like “World’s Gonna Come Around” and “On And On” makes for highlights, with pleasant ska basslines and piano riffs. This is an eclectic, international band with a lot of talent, making for a delectable slice of pop for the summer.
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