Will Downing – Sophisticated Soul
It’s a topsy-turvy, pandemic-driven world out there, one that we’re all trying to muddle through day by day—-there are fewer constants in life, but they still exist: the jellied side of the bread falling face-down, car keys wedging behind the couch when you’re already late…and the masterful, melodic stylings of Will Downing. The sensual instrumentation, the grown and sexy lyrics and, of course, that full-bodied, buttery baritone that conveys all that his heart yearns and desires. For over three decades, the Brooklyn-born songwriter and balladeer has inspired—-and in a round-about way, likely helped to conceive—–generations of R&B and Jazz enthusiasts.
It was probably inevitable that a musician known as the ‘Prince of Sophisticated Soul’ would not only return to the studio, but would also entitle his newest opus as…wait for it…Sophisticated Soul. And just as Will’s proven time and again, it’s an audible delicacy that fans will relish through the last note.
You know how your elders will tell you, “I didn’t get this old by being a dummy?” Well, you don’t earn the longevity, loyal fan base and consistent successes that Will Downing’s enjoyed by failing to give the people what they want, and when it comes to this particular Prince, listeners yearn for the vulnerability, the tenderness, the lush musical foundations and that rich, robust set of pipes that are equally heated and cool.
The first hit single, “The Warmth of You,” is a signature mid-tempo groove that pays lush tribute to his lady and revels in all that she is: “You’re the sun, the moon and stars, the air I breathe is what you are/I can’t go on without you, won’t get far.” “Never Wanted Anyone” percolates with lustful heat, confessing that her technique is one he can’t resist: “When it comes to loving me, you seem to understand/You satisfy my wildest desire, you know how to please your man.” The upbeat, ‘toast it up and love you down’ jam, “Let’s Go,” is a saucy invitation to an adults-only adventure, and one of his most spirited performances is “Old School Love,” where Downing lists the qualities that send his heart fluttering and how “young people may not understand” it, but he knows what he wants for eternity, rather than just an encounter.
However, just as Will can sizzle the sheets (“Love Language”), he can still tug the heartstrings: he’ll have every ‘way back’ couple reminiscing about that special day with his indulgent rendering of “When I First Saw You” from the Dreamgirls soundtrack, and he channels the 70s-era Isley Brothers aura on the decadent “Come With Me.” And just in case there’s any doubts about where his loyalties lie, there’s “Baby I’m Yours,” with titillating instructions included.
For every facet of love and relationships, Will Downing’s established that wherever the emotions take us, he can lead the way. The co-cultivator of his signature sound, Rex Rideout, has made a return; Chris Walker, as well as background vocalist LaJuan Carter-Dent, also add seasonings to the audio buffet. But what draws you, and keeps you, is what the title bears witness to: that oh so Sophisticated Soul. Just in time for ‘cuffing season,’ one of our generations’ most prolific performers has graced us fans with a guide to a successful capture…no hooks, nets, or ammo required. Highly Recommended.