Unlike the rock world, the children of R&B and Soul musicians often have very little trouble establishing themselves as viable musicians in their own right. R&B trio Levert—formed by Gerald and Sean Levert, the sons of The O’Jays‘ Eddie Levert—carried on their father’s legacy, and as a result produced some of the finest R&B records of the past three decades. Family Reunion: The Anthology is a two-disc set that offers up some of Levert’s best sides, as well as some superb solo sides from Gerard and two tracks from Sean.
Superb balladry was Levert’s specialty, and these songs showcase the power of his voice. Levert started off strong; their debut single for Atlantic, “Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop (Goes My Mind),” appeared in 1986, and was an instant success, a blend of gorgeous 70s Soul harmonies and a contemporary beat. It would top the R&B charts, make an appearance in the pop charts and on MTV, and introduce the world to the burgeoning New Jack Swing musical style. Their 1987 single, “Casanova,” would go even further; it would be an international hit, and would give them the full pop crossover in the States.
Feeling confined by the constraints of the band, Gerald Levert launched his solo career in 1991, shortly after release of 1990’s Rope A Dope Style. At the time, it seemed a peculiar decision, as the band released its biggest, most beloved single, “Baby I’m Ready,” in July. The song would top the charts and has since become a beloved wedding song. Not that Levert’s decision to go solo wasn’t ill-advised; Private Line, released that October, would go platinum, based in part on its fine singles, “Private Line,” “School Me,” “Can U Handle It,” and “Baby, Hold On To Me,” a chart-topping duet with his father, Eddie. In 1995, the two would release an album of duets, Father & Son, which would spawn a minor hit, a cover of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” (Best left unmentioned is “Get Your Thing Off,” a creepy slow jam that finds father and son both hooking up with the same woman on the same night.)
Brother Sean—who always was low-key with making music, would release one solo album. 1995’s The Other Side spawned two minor hits, “Put Your Body Where Your Mouth Is” and “Same One,” both of which feature here, and though not quite as thrilling as Gerald’s music, they’re still lovely numbers. (Sean was never one who sought the spotlight; he saw his brother as the talented member of the family, happily deferring to and supporting his brother in Levert, as well as working his older brother’s solo work.)
Gerald’s solo career was a successful one; his 1990s albums all went platinum and performed well on the charts. Sadly, his career would come to a sudden end when he succumbed to an unintentional overdose in 2006 at the relatively young age of 40. A year and a half later Sean would die at the age of 39 the result of poor health and lack of medical care whilst imprisoned for unpaid child support. Marc Gordon has continued on as Levert II, paying tribute to his friends while forging ahead on a new musical path. In spite of the tragedies, the music remains a great testament to the legacy of the Levert brothers, and Family Reunion is a superb collection that shows just how wonderful that legacy is.
Levert Family Reunion: The Anthology is available now via SoulMusic Records.
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