Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Every story has an arc, and love stories are no different. There's the initial encounter, the flirtation, the first date, the escalation, the passion... and then the map gets a little fuzzy. What comes next is hard to predict - rock-solid commitment and eternal devotion for some, disillusionment or even betrayal for others. Some stories end happily ever after, some not so much.
Vocalist Will Downing has a tale of love to tell. It may or may not be based on a true story, but it's one that we've all lived through at one time or another. Downing's version, Lust, Love and Lies (An Audio Novel) - which he fondly calls "an audio soap opera," complete with intermittent vignettes of intimate conversations that help move the story along - includes elements of comedy, tragedy and all the subtle shades in between. The album is set for release on September 14, 2010, on Peak Records, a division of Concord Music Group.
"Will Downing is probably one of he most consistent and active singers in the game right now. He's released a steady stream of music since he hit the scene and averages about an album every year. While other singers get the bigger advertising budgets and the bulk of airplay, Will has a fan base that remains undaunted by his ambiguity in the commercial arena.
On his latest release, Will continues to do what seems to be a lost art in the game today; he has the ability and desire to sing about mens emotions and perspective without catering or coming off as trying to hard. Love, Lust and Lies is a concerted effort to tell the story of a relationship from the meeting and elation of a new interest, to the drama and break up. Glad I Met You and Feelin' Alright are both grown folks club songs. They have a nice groove for you to grab your drink and your two step and are a good lead into the album. There are also more traditional Will moments with songs such as Saturday where he tackles that exact moment when it becomes "real" that the search is over. Another song that will really speak to Downings fans is Tell Me where he speaks, without qualifiers, about being "open" and being able to fill/feel your needs. I really appreciate how this song can be what you want it to be because it manages to be forthcoming without being too aggressive. Consensual happens to be a LOT more aggressive and is one of my favorite songs on the album. With a quiet melodic hook that seems to borrow from Jill Scott's hit, Will plays no games and lets you know that even his statement of "I want to make love to your mind" at 4am is nothing more than game, and he's really about getting down to business.
I won't pretend this album is flawless though. After the song I just talked about, he asks the female about going to Church in the morning. Now, I'm aware that we do this balancing act and live a double life on a regular basis, I get it. But after such a sensual song, the mention of church and the following Safe In His Arms gospel number is like someone flushing the toilet while you're taking a shower. Don't get me wrong, the song really sounds good with Dave Hollister and Will doing a great job on a contemporary gospel song, but it's intro and position on the album are problematic for me. There are other missteps as well as such as the interludes and attempts at story telling. The working title of the album explains that it is an audio novel, and while that has been done before, the execution on this album leaves a lot to be desired. There are some odd dialogues, moments when it sounds like the mic is in Will's throat, and the terrible moment when Unique (probably spelled Uneek... and is this a man or a woman?) spots what appears to be some infidelity in the relationship between Will and the woman that he's dating... which happens to be Unique's friend. To make matters even more odd, prior to being caught, Will says that he's single to someone, and then after the fallout, he says that he and the chick broke up. How do you break up if you weren't a couple? Will definitely didn't do men any favors with the narration on this joint and since they don't really help move the story along, they could just be removed all together. There is also the song Shades, where we get another song that talks about variety in love and adoration. The song itself has so many different focuses as different times that it comes off as if it has A.D.D. I also must say that the cliché reference to colors as flavors made me cringe." - SoulSelections
"Whether you meet on-line, at a stoplight or in the club, going from stranger to significant other typically involves certain milestones---the handshake turns into a hug, a whisper becomes a kiss, and on it goes. When in the wrong hands, the arc of a love story can be handled in a clichéd and formulaic manner, but when it's done by "The Prince of Sophisticated Soul," Will Downing, it instead makes for an intriguing listen. Lust, Love and Lies (An Audio Novel) doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but to be honest, it doesn't have to, since this fifteenth CD for the cool crooner mixes it up and gives a grown and sexy perspective on modern relationships.
Clocking in at just shy of an hour and listing twenty tracks, Lust.... is straight-ahead R&B and may seem to be too much for one sitting, but it actually has a smooth and swift pace, with eleven actual songs and the rest being brief, conversational interludes. Listeners become proverbial flies on the wall as Dee Washington and Will Rollins meet (the upbeat "Glad I Met You Tonight"), get down on the dance floor (an atmospheric "Feelin' Alright") and decide to explore the initial connection further ("Get to Know You," "Tell Me"). As the tracks unfold, it's hard not to go back and time and relive that special time in your life with That Special Someone as you hear Will set the mood, declaring that in a twilight phone call that he wants to "make love to your mind....I know that you're a good girl, but if there's something you'd like to say, then please let it go/Please let it flow," only to completely flip the mood from sensual to sanctified as the new couple high-tails it to church the next morning ("Safe In His Arms," featuring Dave Hollister). Whether they've indulged their desires or narrowly avoided doing so, the gospel groove created by Mr. Downing and Mr. Hollister, fringed with just a dash of auto-tune, is worth the trip.
But, with all of the beating hearts and cupids hitting their mark, everyone knows that the bliss can't last forever, so here comes the Old Flame Vanessa, running into Mr. Rollins and letting him know that she's open for a catch-up conversation and whatever else may follow. The two of them partake in the renewed attraction and a little suggestive wordplay besides ("Shades") and, well, surely you can see where this is going: a messy friend and neighbor calls Dee to report what she's witnessed, who in turn goes off on Will and resists his efforts to explain (the plaintive "Do You Know") before putting their 'thang' on ice. "At This Moment," a sweet (yet less than soaring) remake of the Billy Vera and The Beaters ballad, demonstrates his moment of heartbreak before he charges the experience to the game ("Coulda Been/Shoulda Been") and...um, don't look for a spoiler here, but suffice it to say that Mr. Rollins doesn't remain lonely for too long.
Thanks to co-producers Rex Rideout and Chris "Big Dog" Davis, this latest collection is just as expertly assembled and silky-smooth as any of Mr. Downing's other efforts, and players like bassist Anthony Jackson and guitarist Randy Bowland anchor it all with their classic approach to musicality. The main instrument, Mr. Downing's baritone, remains as nimble and nuanced as ever, and though most of us have all been there, done that, and probably own more than a few T-shirts, Will's "audio novel" still has enough artful twists and turns to make experiencing his particular take on Lust, Love and Lies both welcomed and worthwhile ." SoulTracks
Photographer: Whitney Thomas.
Will Downing has been on a creative tear in the 21st century. Though he's released 14 albums in his 22-year career, he's issued eight of them since 2000. On his debut offering for Concord, Downing finalizes a project he's been working on for five years: a concept album. Lust, Love & Lies (An Audio Novel) is the most straightforward adult R&B recording of his career. With co-production by Downing, Chris "Big Dog" Davis, and longtime collaborator Rex Rideout, the jazzy side is left behind on this date, and all of Downing's energies are concentrated on an upscale, smooth-as-silk, 20-track investigation of various states of attraction, indulgence, love, betrayal, and romantic confusion with a host of players and vocalists. Among these tunes some brief, scattered spoken word interludes meant to serve as conversations actually add weight and heft to the plot, which is more complex than it might otherwise seem. While this is the most seamlessly focused record Downing's issued and taken as a whole is deeply satisfying, there are some standout cuts: the lithe, shimmeringly light funk on "Glad I Met You Tonight," the steamy babymaker "Consensual," the full-blown romantic soul of "Fly Higher," the heartbreaker "At This Moment," and the light club stepper "Coulda Been/Shoulda Been." The story is for the listener to decipher, but it does have an unexpected ending in the spoken word reprise of "Glad I Met You Tonight," entitled "Déjà Vu." From conception to production to sequencing to songwriting to performance, Lust, Love & Lies (An Audio Novel) is another watermark for Downing. That said, it will be interesting to see how longtime fans who have relied on his fence-walking talent between smooth soul and contemporary jazz will react to a strictly R&B album -- the guess is very favorably. ~ Thom Jurek