Today’s POP RESCUE is the 2008 debut album from the 2007 X Factor winner, Leon Jackson, titled Right Now.
The 13 track album opens with second single Don’t Call This Love, which gave him a #3 UK chart hit. Strings open this slow number, switching to piano and vocals soon after. It strikes you quickly, at just how Leon sounds like Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra or even a dash of Darius. Leon takes the vocals on as much of a soaring journey as the strings, and he does it with great ease. The resulting sound is soulful, mellow, and well polished.
Up next is Creative which suggests some exciting samples of 1930s jazz. This is up-beat, lighter, and over all a really catchy little song. It comes complete with a great melody, percussion, brass and strings. Sadly this song only reached #94 on the UK singles chart. He was robbed.
Fourth and final single Stargazing is up next. The piano is rolled out again, as Leon’s deep vocals lead you towards the orchestra. This is quite a nice warm song, and the strings manage to just about enough to keep the song building, even thought it doesn’t evolve a vast amount. There’s possibly echoes of Coldplay here. Sadly, this song failed to chart in the UK, just 13 months after he’d won X Factor.
All In Good Time follows this, which feels like instantly familiar like it’s some classic jazz number re-made. Leon’s vocals are flawless, rich, and strong.
Title track Right Now bursts in with a brass fanfare and some 40s-styled wartime song female vocals. This is a bouncy, confident big band number, with a delicious beat. That confidence pours from Leon’s vocals, and this song is a wonderful little gem, and should probably have been released as a single.
Up next is a nice cover of You Don’t Know Me, originally by Ray Charles. There’s definitely lots of extra scoops of Bublé and Sinatra vocals in this song, and it turns a Ray Charles song into a Bublé one.
Ordinary Days is up next, with Leon pitched against some nice piano. Slowly it builds, adding bass, strings, and beats, although this song feels quite x-factor-album formulaic. Leon makes of it what he can, but it’s a fairly dull song.
This is followed by A Song For You, which is a great piano ballad. This song gives Leon the time and space to really show off his vocal strength and range. The orchestra holds back, making sure that vocals and piano are what shine here. And they do. This song was originally a hit for Leon Russell in 1970.
Fingerprints is next, and this feels is a bit more up-tempo thanks to a soft beat, but other than that, it’s pretty similar to the previous song.
Tenth track is Could Do Better, which has a nice jazzy up-beat style, which briefly reminds me of George Michael‘s Spinning The Wheel single. The orchestra compliments Leon’s vocals, and the sweeping string sections give echoes of some kind of Bond Theme. I think that this song should have made it as a single.
Penultimate song is Caledonia, which pitches Leon against an acoustic guitar. This song reminds me a little of Darius Danesh meets The Proclaimers (now there’s an idea!). It’s a gentle, affectionate nod to Scotland – the homeland of Leon. This is of course another cover – the original was released by its writer back Dougie MacLean in 1978.
The album closes with When You Believe, the Christmas #1 ‘bonus track’ (yeah right, as if they’d not include it as standard!) that was a hit for Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey as a duet in 1998, which they had taken to #4 in the UK as part of the soundtrack to animated film The Prince Of Egypt. In my opinion, this song is dreadful regardless of who sings in. Leon has a good go – but contextually it just sounds like a bit over-the-top ‘thank you, our Lord Simon Cowell‘ song, thanking the show and judges for helping him win. I bet this song haunts Leon at night.
Over all, I was surprised.
Leon can definitely sing, and musically this album is very slick and polished, but almost just like Michelle McManus, he’s been given a ton of dreary songs to stick one style to.
There are definitely some gems here though (Right Now, Could Do Better, Creative, and Don’t Call This Love) but I think that ultimately, until Michael Bublé dies, this chapter of Leon Jackson’s musical career has little room to breathe.
Where is Leon Jackson now?
Despite winning X Factor, he has suffered the same X Factor curse as most former contestants (notably Michelle McManus) – in that once the cameras turn away, the audience forgets them. After the failure of his fourth single to chart, he was dropped by his label. His music has been removed from iTunes UK.
In 2010, it appears that he was back in the studio, and with a slightly different style. Tracks, the beautiful Lighthouse, and Different Lives emerged on YouTube. However, despite his previous success, his second album has yet to materialise.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2008 UK CHART POSITION: #4, certified Gold.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.