IN THIS ERA of crossover fluff, neo-disco and hip-hop, the tradition of real soul singing is being kept alive by such veterans as Bobby Womack and Luther Vandross and such youngsters as the Force MDs and Levert.
This last trio is led by Gerald and Sean Levert, the sons of the O'Jays' Eddie Levert. The youngsters keep the family tradition alive with gruff but confessional lead vocals and tight, rhythmic harmonies that not only can top the black charts but can also cross over to the high reaches of the pop charts. That's just what "Casanova," the unstoppable single from their new album, "The Big Throwdown," has done.
The three members of Levert are no mere revivalists, though. Writing, arranging and producing most of their second album themselves, they have used the new studio technology to give their songs a state-of-the-art dance-floor sound. Beneath the aural fashions of the day, however, is the timeless quality of every R&B record: the unrestrained quest for true love. Like all great R&B singers, Marc Gordon and the Levert brothers link the physical and emotional quest in rhythmic, pleading performances that are uninhibited, not undignified.
Midnight Star's Reggie Calloway wrote and produced "Casanova" and "Temptation," but the trio's own songs are just as strong on this surprisingly consistent album. The new single, "My Forever Love," is a smooth, sweet ballad; "Sweet Sensation" sets a gritty lead vocal against a singalong melody much like the old Four Top hits. "Throwdown" is an effective Sly Stone/P-Funk tribute, but the best song of all is "Good Stuff," a slow grind that manages to sound informal and intimate despite its arresting rhythm riff.
Levert -- "The Big Throwdown" (Atlantic 7 81773-1). Appearing with Atlantic Starr Saturday at Constitution Hall.