In 1981, Leon Ware had of course already made a name for himself as one of Motown’s hit songwriters for Michael Jackson (“I Wanna Be Where You Are”), Marvin Gaye (“I Want You”), or post-Motown for Quincy Jones (“If I Ever Lose This Heaven”). He also collaborated with dozens of others and started his own recording career back in 1972.
In between working for Ike & Tina Turner, Donny Hathaway, or The Miracles, his own romantically-inclined songs found their way to his own albums as well. Now, album number 4 and 5 are available on one CD: “Rockin’ You Eternally” from 1981 and “Leon Ware” from 1982.
The former of course includes the title track, one of his signature songs which has been covered a lot of times up until today. But there is more to the album than this classic piece. The funky “Baby Don’t Stop Me” which he wrote with Marcos Valle and Peter Cetera (what a combination! only Leon Ware could bring them together it seems. Well certainly Quincy as well) also features Marcos on keyboards. The great Gene Page was responsible for the string and horn arrangements (note: real strings and horns!) as on the sexy “Sure Do Want You Now”. Another masterpiece with lush background vocals and superb production. After the discofied “Our Time” with its brilliant hook and the already mentioned title track, still one of the most seductive tracks ever, we are treated to another Ware/Valle collaboration with Richard Rudolph (who also worked with Teena Marie): the mid-tempo swayer “Got To Be Loved”.
The album concludes with “Don’t Stay Away” with still fresh-sounding synths courtesy of Michael Boddicker and its Michael McDonald “What A Fool Believes” echoes and the equally amazing “In Our Garden”, written with “Déja Vu” composer Adrienne Anderson. The strings on this track are simply mind-blowing.
The second album on the disc is full of the top notch studio musicians from that era. Among them, the guys from Toto, Lenny Castro and Airto Moreira on percussion, Nathan East on bass, and backing vocalists Janis Siegel, Rita Coolidge, Flora Purim, or Chris Bennett. In fact, Chris is performing in Berlin this week (see article on these pages). I’m going to ask her if she remembers this particular session. “Slippin’ Away” comes right out of the Toto book. Strings and rhythms are arranged by Marty Paich. Horns by Jerry Hey. Master class!
The album features the immortal “Why I Came To California”, written with Janis Siegel who is also featured on vocals. The slick production speaks for itself. 1982 is still my favorite year in music. This is part of the reason why. There is one more collaboration with Marcos Valle (on the lush ballad “Deeper Than Love”) and one more with Valle and percussionist Laudir De Oliveira (the Latin scorcher “Somewhere” featuring Flora Purim). “Can I Touch You There” is excellently delivered soul of the highest order, “Words Of Love” and “Miracles” echo mid-70s Earth, Wind & Fire. It’s always great to go back to those golden years.