Simba is one hot album of funky soul-jazz. O'Donel Levy had played with Richard "Groove" Holmes and Jimmy McGriff on other albums for producer Sonny Lester's Groove Merchant label, and even had one released under his own name (Black Velvet), but this was something different. Black Velvet had a couple Levy originals, but relied heavily on cover tunes. For Simba, Lester brought in Manny Albam to supply both the tunes and the arrangements, and it makes all the difference in the world. The songs are catchy and funky, and play to Levy's strengths as a player. The arrangements are fantastic, played by a who's who list of '70s session men (including a young David Sanborn and Tony Levin, who throws down throughout). It's a shame that the Albam/Levy partnership didn't last longer, because later in the same year Levy had a follow-up (Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky) without Albam, and it was back to another album of unremarkable covers. Simba is the O'Donel Levy album to own.
AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard