British soul appears to be currently going through a period of renaissance, leading the rest of the world in producing quality new grooves. This year alone we’ve had a new seventies-inspired groove-filled album from Soulpersona and Princess Freesia, Incognito have released a tasty new single to raise funds to help those affected by the Nepal earthquake, and Brit-funk legend Bluey has released a second solo album. That trend continues on Katie Leone’s long-awaited debut solo album Prism of Life. This is no surprise to fans on the UK soul scene for the past few years Leone has been one of the featured vocalists with Bluey’s Incognito, performing across the world with the band and appearing on last year’s Amplified Soul album (singing lead on the song ‘Hands Up If You Wanna Be Loved‘), as well as the new charity single.
Now Leone has stepped out on her own, releasing her impressive debut album on Splash Music Records. The record is brilliantly produced, showcasing Leone’s tasty vocal talents. The record’s overall sound is clearly very much influenced by the current sound of Incognito, but with a grittier slightly less polished edge that suits Leone’s powerful range well. Once again, Bluey has discovered and promoted another great musical talent.
The album opens powerfully with the title track, featuring impressive production and musicianship providing a slightly futuristic edge, giving the listening a potential glimpse into soul music of the future. Leone’s vocals are simply great, her raw emotion and passion are laid down without sounding over-sung, instead riding the infectious groove majestically. Indeed, Leone impresses on the album’s up-tempo numbers: ‘Stronger’ features Bluey-esque guitar licks backed with a dance-infused beat, whilst ‘Let Ya Hair Down’ is a brilliant neo-seventies groove that is a highlight of the album, complete with classic Incognito horns which are a real treat to hear. The bass on ‘Let Ya Hair Down’ is also something to admire, giving the song a real funk groove. If you were to download just one song of this album, this would probably be it.
Another highlight on Prism of Light would be the neo-eighties groove ‘The Grind’, featuring some delicious synths, combined with Leone’s superb vocal. It’s a mid-tempo groove, and with the background vocals in the chorus it would be easy to think of this as a LaBelle classic. Switching genres slightly is ‘Yellow Flower’, which has a delightful jazz-funk, opening on the sound of record, harking back to the earlier releases of Incognito. The song features more excellent musicianship, particularly with the trumpet solo towards the end of the song.
Leone also demonstrates that she is more than capable singing ballads as well as dance-floor tunes. Leone is the only vocalist on the album, singing both the lead and backing arrangements. Her ability to sing ballads is best demonstrated on ‘My Song’: accompanied by a simple piano arrangement, the vocal arrangement is pure magic, highlighting a softer, sweeter side of Leone’s beautiful voice. ‘Perfect Love’ has an Al Green/Anthony Hamilton feel to it, with some more lovely guitar licks and another great vocal arrangement.
This is one seriously impressive debut album from Katie Leone, many more established artists ought to take a good listen to Prism of Light for inspiration. Leone’s voice is simply stunning, and she demonstrates that brilliantly on this album. Once again, British soul music is at the cutting edge, creating some excellent new releases and sounds that manage to effectively draw on the past without sounding like mere replicas of the past. Prism of Light will hopefully be the first of many excellent new albums from Britain, and from Katie Leone.
Prism of Light is available to download on iTunes, and can physical copies can be purchased on Amazon, and the entire album can be streamed on Spotify below. You can find Katie Leone on Facebook and Twitter.