Will Downing – Soul Survivor
I bought Will Downing‘s first LP in May, 1988. His version of “A Love Supreme” with Stanley Turrentine on sax still resonates. Other cuts like “In My Dreams” or the cover of the Deniece Williams classic “Free” have become soul standards. 20 albums and almost 30 years later, you really can call him a soul survivor since artists in this particular genre usually face a relatively short life-span.
And so the album opens with a theme where his album titles are listed before the only real uptempo dance number, “I Just Wanna Say Thank You”, sets the pace and functions as his own way of showing his gratitude for his loyal fans over the years. The track features his wife, Audrey Wheeler on backing vocals plus the almost legendary James “D-Train” Williams and Carol Riddick. One of the highlights on the album is the track where he features the sweet and lovely Avery *Sunshine. Her strong and thick, voluptuous voice really shines like a diamond on the beautiful “I’m Feeling The Love”.
I have mixed feelings for the cover versions here. The intro to “Hurry Up This Way Again” is pretty cool and innovative and the string arrangement (not real strings though) is very catchy. Najee can be heard on sax and flute. Will’s very aspirated singing style on Michael Franks‘ “Tell Me All About It” doesn’t help enhance the track. Even though there is a real string orchestra on this one, it sounds very hushed and too slick. I think Natalie Cole did a far better job on this classic tune.
Elsewhere on the album fans of classic 70s style soul crooning will appreciate the nicely flowing “Since You’ve Been Gone”. The 1974 Blue Magic track “Stop To Start”, which features label mate Phil Perry, rides on the old school soul ballad male duo wave and doesn’t really do it for me. The Sade-like “Everything I Want In My Lady” works with its sensuous atmosphere and although it has a pretty trite lyric (“you’re so sweet, sexy, everything I want in my lady”), it rides along smoothly and comfortable and also features Maysa supporting Will’s still superb voice.
More solid soul stuff can be found on “Our Time” with its catchy hook and on “When We Make Love” with its Barry White-style intro and its seductive swagger and Ron Isley-like guitar solo (Randy Bowland). I like those backing vocals on this one, too.
Will plays a Christmas show with Avery *Sunshine on December 10th in Detroit (Sound Board at Motor City Casino) and on December 14th in Glenside, PA (Keswick Theatre) and another one with Keith Sweat on December 9th in Hammond, Indiana. Other regular tour stops are in Charlotte, NC (November 17th), Atlanta, GA (11/18), Greenville, SC (with Avery *Sunshine, 11/24), Anaheim, CA (12/03), Saint Paul, MN (12/05), and Columbia, SC (12/15).