Leon Thomas’ “Blues And The Soulful Truth” is rightly considered a masterpiece of early 70s jazz vocal. Bob Thiele, Flying Dutchman’s owner, had seen the success of Esther Phillips’ “From A Whisper To A Scream”, which featured the arranging skills of Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, the former leader of James Brown’s band. He figured a similar mix of jazz, blues and soul, could do the same for Thomas, and brought Ellis on board. ‘Love Each Other’ and ‘L-O-V-E’ find Thomas in Donny Hathaway territory, performing danceable and exciting soul, while covers of ‘Boom-Boom-Boom’ and ‘C.C. Rider’ show him to be a natural blues singer. However, it is with the jazzier numbers that the employment of Ellis really pays off. ‘Shape Your Mind To Die’, featuring a distinctive Eastern soprano sax motif from Ellis, is one of the finest moment in Thomas’ entire catalogue, while ‘China Doll’ is a beautiful jazz ballad and ‘Gypsy Queen’ adds vocals to a number made famous by Santana. All in all, the album is a rare and wonderful treat.
By Dean Rudland