First Listen – Katie Leone is a “Prism of Light”


R&B and soul has a long tradition of background singers stepping to the fore. Patti Austin, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Kelly Price, Lisa Fischer — so many brilliant technicians started from the back and now they’re here (and some, as in Fischer’s case return to what is most comfortable). Usually, they are singers who come with an infallible ear and a consummate professionalism. Session, guest, and background singer for such artists as Incognito, Leon Ware, and Elvis Costello, among others, UK blue-eyed soul singer Katie Leone continues that tradition with an awe-inspiring range and the precision of a ninja on her debut album, Prism of Light.

The title track and opening number to Leone’s debut is a sweet greeting to newcomers of the singer’s gifts. It’s a catchy up-tempo number reminiscent of the ‘80s movie theme songs for such madcap films as Beverly Hills Cop and National Lampoon’s Vacation like The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” and Patti Labelle’s “New Attitude” and “Stir It Up.” Like all those background singers of lore whose instrument demanded star attention, Leone’s voice stretches for orbital status on several key moments to dizzying effect, but just as exciting is hearing it delivered on such a strong melody straddling the thin line between R&B and commercial pop. The fact that the song has such a positive and uplifting message is just icing on an already buttercream rich layer cake. Get you a slice.

By L. Michael Gipson

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