Lenny Williams ‘Choosing You’ (BBR) 4/5

Lenny-WilliamsBest known for his lead vocals as part of 1970s super funk group and Oakland-based collective Tower of Power (‘What is hip?’ being just one of their signature tunes), Lenny Williams forged a distinctive and separate parallel career in his own right and this late 1970s album is rightly regarded as one of his very best. Born in Little Rock Arkansas (Bill Clinton being another native of this area), Williams in the early part of his career recorded for a variety of labels between 1972 and 1975 including Atco, Warner and even Motown. However, he is most fêted for his mid-1970s albums between 1977 and 1981 for both ABC and MCA and the ‘Choosing You’ album from 1977 is definitive Lenny Williams from this era. The very album cover, with Williams in a three piece suit and lady at his side, evokes the disco era and this is an album with dancefloor connections as well as more soulful tempos. One of the strongest cuts is actually a B-side to the title track as a 45 ‘Problem Solver’ which has a strong gospel influence and a previous version of this was contained on a 1974 Warner Brother album produced by Eugene McDaniels no less. Of course the A-side showcased the album to perfection and is a stunning dancefloor winner of a track produced like the rest of the album by Frank Wilson who had worked closely with Diana Ross in her post-Supremes period at Motown. An ideal follow up to the title track was the uptempo groove of ‘Look up your mind’ while, for one of those classic Williams ballads that received plenty of nightime radio airplay and in the process made him a darling of modern soul fans, ‘I’ve been away from love for too long’ is a quiet storm gem of distinction. As a result of the success of ‘Choosing You’, a second album was recorded for the label ‘Spark of Love’ which surfaced in 1978. An anthology overview is now urgently required and one that contains most of the classic sides that were first compiled by David Nathan on the now deleted and defunct Ichiban label. A year later Lenny Williams would score a major R&B and pop hit with a reprise of the Five Stairsteps 1970s hit ‘Ooh Child’ and a delicious mid-tempo number ‘Messin’ with my mind’ which is a particular favourite of this writer. Tim Stenhouse