The legendary lead singer of the mighty, mighty O’Jays has just released his long awaited solo album ‘Did I Make You Go Ooh’. And at 73, Eddie Levert very much still has it.
It’s hard to imagine a man who has suffered so much personal tragedy and loss to be still in public view, still making a living doing what he’s done for the past fifty years or so. But that’s exactly what Eddie Levert is doing. Most famous for being a member of The O’Jays, Levert is one of soul music’s great. It’s his gruff soulful voice on songs like ‘Backstabbers‘, ‘For The Love of Money‘ and ‘Love Train‘; it’s his voice that people around the world love. And now he’s back with a brand new album, the very good Did I Make You Go Ooh.
Now the first thing that more than a few people might think reading this is: well, can he still sing at 73? For anyone who has had the privilege of seeing Levert with The O’Jays over the past few years can testify to, the answer is a resounding yes. Sure, in place’s he’s a little deeper and a little raspier than he might once have been, but all-in-all Levert’s voice remains the powerhouse it was when The O’Jays hit the big time on Philadelphia International back in the seventies. And if you expect a seventy-something to sound like they did when they were in their prime fifty-ish years ago, then you’re a fool. Thankfully, Levert still sounds as gruff and bold as ever, and he puts all his vocal might into this new album.
It’s refreshing that someone of Levert’s stature refuses to stand still in the business: it would be easy for Levert to simply just perform the hits that he and The O’Jays are known for. No one would complain. But Levert’s passion for creating music clearly remains, and it shows on Did I Make You Go Ooh.
The album opens with the blistering ‘I Ain’t Goin’ For That‘, a hardcore piece of rocking soul that has Levert’s trademark seductive growl first and centre. The song is infectious, complete with a decent rhythm and horn arrangement making it a decent start to the album. The groove mellows a tad with the album’s first single ‘Say It Ain’t So‘, perhaps the most radio friendly cut from the album; it’s been getting some plays in the soul stations in the States, but not enough, sadly, for it to gain the traction it deserves. But the song is funky, and Levert sounds good.
The funk runs deep through the album, with Levert combining his classic sound with rock elements, giving him a new direction. This doesn’t sound like an O’Jays record, and nor should it. ‘Bang The Walls‘ is a gritty piece of rock and soul that George Clinton or Nona Hendryx might have performed back in the day, while ‘The Big Groove‘ urges us to ‘help the poor and needy’, touching on the social issues of the day, harking back to social songs Levert recorded back in the seventies.
Levert is equally, if not more impressive, on the album’s ballads. His voice seems to suit the slower songs on the album slightly better. A particular highlight is ‘Never Miss Your Water‘, which seems to take inspiration from the William Bell Stax classic ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water‘. Lever’s voice is at his most powerful and most seductive, making it one of the best cuts on the album. He’s equally impressive on ‘I Let Go‘, a real slow and sultry ballad on which Levert shines. Perhaps the best slow jam is the title track itself; Levert is at his most romantic, having shot the accompanying video with his wife. His voice is at it’s best here, with his emotional yearning a pleasure to the ear. ‘Did I Make You Go Ooh‘ is definitely one to check out.
Our favourite song on the album is without a doubt ‘Shit Starter’, a song that Levert has dedicated to all those who stir social and racial divides for their own gain, such as Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly who Levert features in the accompanying musical video. In an interview with Levert for The Funk & Soul Revue he told us that: “I was trying to make a statement about what’s going on politically right now, with some of the newscasters and the news stations, and how they were so negative as far as our president is concerned. So, it seems like they were always looking for bad things to say about him, so I made this record called ‘Shit Starter’ because they never had anything good to say.” It’s one of the highlights on this strong album, and the video makes it worth listening to alone.
All in all Eddie Levert has done a stellar job on his new album: his voice remains strong, his passion for his craft burns bright, and the song selection is inspired. In a year that we’ve lost greats such as Prince, Otis Clay, Natalie Cole, Billy Paul and others it reminds us that the artists we love – the classic artists that defined the genres of soul, funk, disco – are getting older and they won’t be around forever. Now is the time to appreciate them, show them love and enjoy their musical creations. Eddie Levert has put out a really good album in Did I Make You Go Ooh and long may he continue to sing and entertain us.