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Leon Sylvers' Best

by Mosi Reeves

Leon Sylvers' Best

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At the dawn of the '80s, Leon Sylvers III was one of a handful of producers who marked black music's shift from sprawling funk and soul instrumentation to warm electronic tones and throbbing post-disco beats. In the midst of heated competition from Quincy Jones, Kashif and Reggie Calloway, his productions stood out for their imaginative use of vocal harmony and sweet pop melodies. His biggest hits, including Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Save the Overtime (For Me)" and The Whispers' "And the Beat Goes On," are some of the best moments of the posthumously named boogie-funk era.

Sylvers honed his songwriting and arrangement skills as a member of The Sylvers, a family band unfortunately remembered for chirpy disco smashes like "Boogie Fever" and "Hot Line." (Their early '70s gems ,like "Only One Can Win" and Foster Sylvers' "Misdemeanor," are well worth seeking out.) By 1978, he was an in-house producer for Solar Records, working with bands like Lakeside, Midnight Star and his own band, Dynasty. But Leon Sylvers is best remembered for his work with Shalamar, one of the great singles acts of the early '80s, with incandescent numbers such as "A Night to Remember," "Make That Move" and "Over and Over." More than a decade after Sylvers' heyday, Teddy Riley recruited him for his Blackstreet project, with the two cowriting the 1995 hit single "Before I Let You Go." It was a reminder of Sylvers' lasting influence on modern R&B.

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