R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases

Truly Classique

26 JUN 09 DAVID NATHAN

With the release of Will Downing's groundbreaking A Dream Fulfilled and his pairing with Gerald Albright on Pleasures Of The Night, the vocalist's audience has included jazz and R&B lovers. His latest set, Classique, reflects the Brooklyn native's roots in soul music.

The album offers a string of superb covers -- Barry White's "I'm Gonna Love You A Little More Baby," David Ruffin's "Statue Of A Fool" and The Originals' "Baby I'm For Real" (penned by Marvin Gaye). The latter is a scorching standout thanks to fellow soul stylist Phil Perry. Those tracks blend seamlessly with original material like the lead-off single "Something Special" and the sexy "Let's Make It Now," co-written with renowned singer-songwriter Gary Taylor. They show Downing's warm and sensual vocal style at its best.

Surprisingly, after a debilitating encounter with a disorder known as polymyositis that began in 2007, Downing actually sounds stronger than ever. While his last Peak release After Tonight showed no hint of any loss of vocal power, Classique displays a renewed confidence, Downing's tones richer and fuller than ever.

He's nicknamed "The Prince Of Sophisticated Soul," but Downing's latest set could result in a slight adjustment of the term. With smouldering cuts like "Ride" and "Love Suggestions," he's in line for a new handle, "The Prince Of Sexy Soul," as Downing emerges as the standard-bearer of a tradition of sensual soul men that includes Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, Barry White and Leon Ware.

He's on tour now. Check here for dates near you.

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    I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby

    Will Downing, from Classique

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    Fantasy (Spending Time With You)

    Will Downing, from After Tonight

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    Cheaper To Keep Her

    Gerald Albright, from Sax for Stax

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    Perfect Island Night

    Phil Perry, from Magic

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    Hold Tonight

    Leon Ware, from Moon Ride

in this playlist.