O'Donel Levy

Black Velvet

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As its title portends, Black Velvet boasts a smooth, rich texture absent from O'Donel Levy's subsequent Groove Merchant sessions -- its mellow, stoned-soul sensibilities nevertheless complement the guitarist perfectly, affording him the space to weave a series of righteously beautiful solos. Like so many Groove Merchant efforts, the album relies far too much on the pop charts for material -- pap like "You've Made Me So Very Happy," "I'll Be There," and "Theme from Love Story" turns up like bad pennies -- but the arrangements are lovely, spotlighting contributions from organist Charles Covington, reedist Fats Theus, and trumpeter Billy Skinner. Levy also proves himself a composer of some distinction, contributing a pair of charming originals, "Granny" and "Nature's Child."

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