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Will Downing – Soul Survivor

Sept. 21, 2017

The Prince of Sophisticated Soul, Will Downing, pours his seductive and charming style of soul all over your ears once again here with his latest gem Soul Survivor, a collection of sharp, clever covers and originals meant to captivate and woo in that familiar Downing way.

Teaming up on select tracks with the mega-talented and sultry vocalist Avery Sunshine, the queen of killer vocals Maysa, vocal giant and all-around good guy Phil Perry, household sax name Najee, and others, the vocal maestro takes us on another full-bodied journey of soul in the smooth lane with tunes like the lead and title track, the hot dance track “I Just Wanna Say Thank You,” “I’m Feeling the Love” with its sexy swagger and funk and those stellar Avery pipes, and the reminiscent Motown flow of which you are reminded with “Since You’ve Been Gone,” taking you back to those lovely duet years of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (though this is not a duet) and featuring some solid sax chops in the appropriate places.

The cover of one of my all-time soul/R&B faves – the touching “Stop to Start” first recorded by the beloved vocal group Blue Magic – totally takes “sweet” to another level with the addition of masterful pearl-voiced Phil Perry (pairing these two guys together in one song is almost lethally good!). Then, there’s “Everything I Want in a Lady,” featuring some of that Barry White-like “come here” electric seduction and the subtle, teasing backing vocals in the chorus by the one and only super-songstress Maysa who so graciously and humbly takes a back seat here in support of Downing (because that’s just the sweet soul she is).

And this album goes on from here, touching, feeling, moving, and mesmerizing. Recruiting saxman extraordinaire Najee for the cover of The Stylistics’ “Hurry Up This Way Again” is almost overkill as the two combine to slide into that love zone with crazy ease.

Lovers everywhere, the track “When We Make Love” might be one to which you refrain from listening until you are snuggled in that romantic environment because you’ll feel so out of place listening to it on headphones while shopping or driving home from work. Nope, not the right places as the “mood” will definitely overcome you. It’s that good.

Wrapping this beauty up with Michael Franks’ “Tell Me All About It” is about all you can take on this project. Nuff said.

All in all, this is a diamond of a project, no track undeserving of your full attention and an enthusiastic upraised hand in testimony of a job so incredibly well-done. Three decades as a recording artist and 20 CDs into this marvelous, almost surrealistic musical journey, and I can practically guarantee you that Will Downing is just beginning. Doesn’t that make you just wanna holler in celebration? – Ronald Jackson