Les Dion
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Les Dion

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"Les Dion's great opus- "Back 2 Smooth""

Les Dion has a back story you could write a novel about. A military veteran with a long association with the world of music, Dion’s
music dreams were thwarted by a major label structure in the 1980’s and 1990’s that was formulaic and unfriendly to independent
artists. A family man who has shepherded his clan through a host of challenges and tragedies, Dion never lost the burning desire to
write and record his own music. 2013 sees the release of Dion’s great opus, Back 2 Smooth. Les Dion has a real talent for slow and
steady grooves, blending 1970’s style R&B with smooth jazz for a very appealing sound. There are some very sweet moments on
Back 2 Smooth! “Callin’” is a song dedicated to Dion’s daughter, and finds Dion finely entrenched in his falsetto voice. It’s one
of the better vocal performances on the album. There are plenty of smooth grooves on the Album to keep lovers of Quiet storm Soul, and
Smooth Jazz affectionados entertained.


Wildy Haskell- Wildy's World - Wildy Haskell - Wildy's world


"Les Dion - "Back 2 Smooth""

Back in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, Les Dion was poised to take the musical world by storm at a young age. Regrettably, success was
not to be had and at the turn of the ‘90s, Dion’s focus turned to his family. Over the course of two more decades, Dion’s life was
wrought with tragedy and it wouldn’t be until the last few years that he was able to find himself again, and find his penchant for
music. His 2013 album, Back 2 Smooth, is a beautiful, soulful, inspiring, and engaging album, entirely produced and performed by him.
The musical world should consider itself grateful that Dion rediscovered himself, because this record is fantastic. The most
immediately identifiable trait about Back 2 Smooth is Dion’s heavenly voice. On the fourteen songs he has here, every one of them
has a vocal performance that is nothing short of heavenly. Without exaggeration, Back 2 Smooth may indeed by one of the smoothest
records to come out in quite some time.


Heath Andrew - Indie Reviewer
- Heath Andrews- The Indie Reviewer


""Back 2 Smooth" may just be a Groundbreaking Album!"

The more things change in the music world, the more they inevitably stay the same. And that is certainly true of R&B. Although R&B underwent major changes in the 1980s (when R&B producers became decidedly high-tech and embraced the production techniques of hip-hop and synth-pop) and kept evolving in the 1990s and 2000s, the classic soul of the 1960s and 1970s continues to influence certain R&B singers. That is true of some of the younger neo-soulsters who have emerged in the 21st Century, and it is true of veteran artists who are old enough to remember the 1980s. Les Dion, a veteran singer who has contributed to both secular R&B and Christian R&B (a.k.a., soul gospel or urban contemporary gospel), shows a strong appreciation of classic northern soul on his 2013 release Back 2 Smooth.

This is a secular release with strong quiet storm leanings. Back 2 Smooth has both classic soul appeal and urban contemporary appeal, and one hears a lot of old-school influences such as Marvin Gaye and the Isley Brothers. Dion’s vocal style isn’t quite the gossamer, ultra-celestial approach of Russell Thompkins, Jr. of Stylistics fame or Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey; nor is it a totally gruff vocal style like Eddie Levert of the O’Jays. Dion, rather, sounds a bit like Emanuel Rahiem Leblanc (former lead singer of the band GQ), and that type of smooth but soulful approach serves him well on romantic slow jams such as “Heaven,” “Getaway” (not to be confused with Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1976 hit), “Your Love Is All I Need” and “Stay.” Dion favors a romantic ambiance most of the time; whether he is delivering a ballad or a medium-tempo song, Dion seldom strays from the album’s quiet storm orientation. And listeners who are looking for an album of romantic R&B mood music should have no problem getting into “Changin’ My Tone,” “Mirror of Your Heart,” “Your Love Is What I Need,” “Callin’” and other laid-back offerings.

Dion can get funky. “Make That Change” is funky in a way that hints at Maze & Frankie Beverly, who were huge in the late 1970s and 1980s. But “Make That Change” isn’t the really gutbucket, in-your-face type of funk that Parliament/Funkadelic, Rick James, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, the Ohio Players and the late Godfather of Soul James Brown were known for back in the day; it is a smooth type of funk not unlike something Maze would have done in their heyday. And “Make That Change” doesn’t really detract from the quiet storm ambiance that dominates this release.

Back 2 Smooth is a very hands-on album for Dion. In addition to producing the album and self-releasing it, Dion wrote most of the material. But there are two songs on the album that Dion didn’t write: Brian McKnight’s “I Belong to You” and the Gene DePaul/Sammy Cahn standard “Teach Me Tonight.” The latter has been recorded by numerous jazz, traditional pop or cabaret singers over the years; Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peggy Lee, the Four Freshmen and Sarah Vaughan are among the many artists who recorded “Teach Me Tonight.” But that standard has also been recorded by some R&B artists over the years, including Freda Payne, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. And Dion zeros in on the song’s R&B possibilities, making it is a logical choice for an album with a quiet storm orientation.

Dion’s publicity bio explains that as a singer, he has had more than his share of ups and down over the years. In that bio, Dion jokes that “the only thing more elusive than a successful music career may have been Osama Bin Laden.” Indeed, commercial success in the music industry often has a lot to do with pure luck or being in the right place at the right time. But Dion is a talented singer and songwriter, and Back 2 Smooth may just be a groundbreaking album. It's a likeable and pleasant demonstration of his quiet storm skills.

Les Dion
Back 2 Smooth
Review by Alex Henderson
- Alex Henderson


"'Les' is more and "Back 2 Smooth" is the reason why!"

The jazzy, soul-stirring, and R&B reinventions of Les Dion are eloquently captured on the new fourteen-track release, Back 2 Smooth. As a vocalist, Les stirs up smooth sounds and fluid grooves on guitar, bass, percussion, keyboards, and sax. The vocals are generally of a higher register akin to Michael Jackson; rather than Al Green. The scintillating melodies and lush grooves accentuate the inventive sounds of a classic singer, songwriter, and performer. Back 2 Smooth is an album that spans R&B, jazz, and soul genres at the very least.

“Getaway” opens with a bit of bass, keyboard washes, jazzy percussion, and horn-like sounds with layered vocals. The vocal delivery is tight overall with a good jazz or soul instrumental medley. The stark percussion sounds and swishy noises represent a highly-textured song driven by Les’ crystal clear vocals and punchy melody set-up. The song is not as fluid as typical smooth jazz, R&B, or soul genres, but that does not diminish the musical intensity of the song.

“Godstrong” begins with a few percussive taps and a showy keyboard, percussion, and horn or sax accompaniment. The vocals are rather strong with some intonations indicative of Michael Jackson. The piercing keyboard sounds, jazzy bass line, and horn-driven background meld succinctly with the guitar and higher vocal register. This is not a particularly smooth song, as the percussion and assorted sounds are rather punchy with a strong classic beat that is definitely jazzy.

“Changing My Tone” opens with a soft, crystalline keyboard melody that is slow and sparse. There is a little tambourine accompaniment and ambulating guitar strums. Les’ vocals are achingly beautiful amidst a backdrop of smooth guitar tones, light percussion, and keyboard washes. This is a rather relaxed, lo-fi song that definitely fits the smooth jazz or smooth R&B characteristics. There are symphonic keyboard washes that display a degree of classical or cinematic tones. There is a decent balance between cinematic embellishments, keyboard nuances, vocal tones, and light percussive accompaniment.

“Gotta Believe” opens with blurby keyboard sounds, haughty horn sounds, and a rather upbeat percussive setup. The laid-back song contains a few piercing keyboard washes and classic undertones that generally follow a soulful or R&B vein. There are electric guitar sounds that accompany the blurby electronics that provide a sultry and moving song. Les’ vocals are never overbearing or too loud for the instrumentation.

“Back 2 Smooth” begins with a few bass slaps and fluid electronic sounds that accompany a light, jazzy, and soulful percussion setup. The music borders on smooth jazz with a good degree of R&B grooves. The swishy percussion accompanies sax or horn-like embellishments that provide a good deal of classy elements pervasive in the jazz “Changing My Tone” opens with a soft, crystalline keyboard melody that is slow and sparse. There is a little tambourine accompaniment and ambulating guitar strums. Les’ vocals are achingly beautiful amidst a backdrop of smooth guitar tones, light percussion, and keyboard washes. This is a rather relaxed, lo-fi song that definitely fits the smooth jazz or smooth R&B characteristics. There are symphonic keyboard washes that display a degree of classical or cinematic tones. There is a decent balance between cinematic embellishments, keyboard nuances, vocal tones, and light percussive accompaniment.

“Gotta Believe” opens with blurby keyboard sounds, haughty horn sounds, and a rather upbeat percussive setup. The laid-back song contains a few piercing keyboard washes and classic undertones that generally follow a soulful or R&B vein. There are electric guitar sounds that accompany the blurby electronics that provide a sultry and moving song. Les’ vocals are never overbearing or too loud for the instrumentation.

“Back 2 Smooth” begins with a few bass slaps and fluid electronic sounds that accompany a light, jazzy, and soulful percussion setup. The music borders on smooth jazz with a good degree of R&B grooves. The swishy percussion accompanies sax or horn-like embellishments that provide a good deal of classy elements pervasive in the jazz genres. Les brings in some backup vocals to strengthen the vocal deliveries throughout; despite the fact Les is a stand-out soloist without any additional help. Les possesses an uncanny ability to make voices like the instruments that accompany him. This is probably a coincidence, but the result is not a criticism in any way.

Les Dion’s new release, Back 2 Smooth, is an album that spans multiple genres—from R&B to jazz and soul—with a talented vocal delivery and superb musicianship throughout. The smooth percussion, fluid melodies, and upbeat vocal deliveries are not deficient in any way. There is room for laid-back lounging, as well as more upbeat dance-friendly tunes. There are enough good elements to keep listeners duly enthralled. Fans of soul, jazz, R&B, and nostalgic jazz will be especially pleased with the new release. ‘Les’ is more and Back 2 Smooth is the reason.

Artist: Les Dion
Album: Back 2 Smooth
Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)
- Mathew Forss- Inside World Music


"Les Dion - "Back 2 Smooth""

Patience is a virtue. It can pay off in the most fruitful of creative results, as evidenced by Back 2 Smooth, the secular debut
album of New Jersey native Les Dion. After several decades of close calls and deals gone bad, the singer-songwriter delivers a
cohesive set of relaxed, yet upbeat, R&B gems tailored for those who like their vibes positive—their musical moods sweet.
Opening with the supple groove of the title track, Back 2 Smooth is a consistently pleasing showcase of a tenderhearted tenor
vocalist with an understanding of lyrical and musical authenticity. Dion's phrasing floats gently atop layers of breezy guitars
on "Back 2 Smooth," an Isley Brothers-inspired midtempo joint propelled by emotive chord progressions. "Dinner was perfect, the
movie was sweet," he lightly coaxes during the first verse of "Stay," the second track. His falsetto treatment of this ballad brings
to mind Russell Thompkins, Jr., and is a solid indicator of the notable range displayed throughout the CD. Likewise, Dion's unassuming approach to lyrics here is exemplary of the sensitivity to be found on each selection.
"Until I hear your heartbeat pounding next to mine, I've got work to do/'Til every single star up in the sky knows that I belong to
you." These charmingly vulnerable and honest lines from the slow-jam "I Belong to You" are sure to win the hearts of female listeners
searching for a respite from over-sexified lotharios pitching pseudo-romantic phrases to the masses. On the contagious
"Your Love Is What I Need," Dion reassures: "I ain't like the other guys, tryin' to get between your thighs." Coupled with a
shuffling dance beat, the fluid sax lines make for a unique accompaniment to his marked urgency during the chorus.
Carrying a similarly sprightly groove, the catchy "Callin'" recalls the rhythmic flow of Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" while telling a
tale of going to all lengths to recover a love lost in the lines of miscommunication. Meanwhile, "Godstrong" keeps the knack for
head-nodding while focusing on overcoming personal barriers: "You're ticked off, It's only 'cause you can't get up off that
negative/Forget about the cause...the answer...is right around the way." The song is a zenith of Dion's struggles as an artist to
reach his present state of self-sufficient creativity. As the eleventh track on Back 2 Smooth, it would make for an ideal closer to
the set. But he provides a different sort of listening therapy with the final selection, "Heaven"—a moving dedication to his two
late sons, both of whom passed at age 20.

Back 2 Smooth is a refreshing collection of unaffected, uncluttered R&B with thoughtful messages and melodic glow. Tinged with bits
of smooth-jazz guitar and chord structures, the content is largely both laid-back and danceable. There are one or two songs that
aren't absolutely essential to the package; but in totality, Les Dion has proffered a satiating, independently produced CD that
stands a cut above even many of his major-label contemporaries' efforts—thanks to a genuine vision and skilled performance.

Highly recommended.
by Justin Kantor - soultracks.com


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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