To some, Will Downing is known as “The Prince of Sophisticated Soul.” He could also go by the alias, WD Chocolate. It’s no small coincidence that you can use the same words describing the taste of chocolate to define the “Will Downing sound”? Don’t believe it? Let’s test it. Rich…Smooth…Silky…Irresistible…Addictive. If you share cravings for both, you can get your fix when you unwrap the sweet poetic symbolism of his 18th studio release…wait for it…Chocolate Drops.
Chocolate Drops is Will Downing’s heart-shaped music sampler for the many fans that have followed his incredible 27 year career. Like any good sampler, it’s a pleasing mix of the things you love and expect along with a few tasty surprises. What should be correctly expected is the classy high-quality vocals, songwriting and production that has been increasingly handled by Downing himself over the last decade. The surprises come in the form of some bold and daring interpretative/remake choices.
So let’s dig into this ear-candy! Can’t start without first appreciating the wrapper, which for the second release in a row, features “Ohio Players-esque” cover art showcasing the sensual female form in lieu of the slick shots of Downing we’ve seen over the years. The release kicks off in fine fashion with the uplifting message and Stepper’s tempo of “This Song Is For You”, sure to touch anyone needing an extra kick of motivation just to make it through the day. Immediately following is the album’s first single, “I Could Never Say No To You”, a mid-tempo expression of the sometimes crazy desire to always please and never disappoint the ones we love. Rounding out this opening trio of songs co-written and co-produced by Downing and Grammy Nominated keyboardist Chris “Big Dog” Davis, is a slight departure from the norm, “Till U Come Back”…(this is that chocolate drop with the cream filling in the middle that you didn’t see coming)! You might not be use to hearing Will Downing like this, but you’ll hope you get a chance to in the future.
The Atlantic Starr gem, “Let’s Get Closer”, is the first of the three interpreted classics on Chocolate Drops, which is no easy feat considering how well engrained the original has been in the collective music memory of the listening public all these years. Downing manages to put his unique production stamp on it and yet retain that familiar Quiet-Storm vibe. Another trio of originals cue up next with, singer-songwriter Gordon Chambers and band member Mike Logan teaming up with Downing on one of the more Urban Jazz formatted songs on the album, “Deep As The Ocean”, which contains a beautiful break from the expert bow of violinist Regina Carter. New collaborators Aaron Marcellus and Producer Shedrick Mitchell penned the final two new songs, “Run Away, Fall In Love” and “It’s Real” and show a true gift for writing catchy hooks that linger on the palate long after the last note fades.
Chocolate Drops is far from done at this point…we’re just getting to the “daring” part! Will Downing loves to re-imagine songs made famous by female vocalists and put a male point of view of them. This time he chose one of the biggest hits by arguably the most iconic female voice of this generation…the late great Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You”! You read that right! I’m not personally familiar with anyone touching this…male or female…in the 30 years since it’s release, and there couldn’t be a greater natural vocal range difference between the two artists…but somehow (after the initial shock) you won’t find it strange at all. In fact it’s a fitting tribute to the fallen songbird. But as they say, wait…that’s not all! Downing shocks us with one more ace up his sleeve with the late 60’s definitive send up on interracial dating, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouver’s “Does Your Momma Know About Me”. I think it says a great deal about racial progress in this country that in this day and age you can now simply enjoy the beauty of this song without getting lost in the social statement originally intended.
Will Downing seems to be having so much fun in the studio these days with very little left to prove and the freedom to take all the chances. Downing is the CEO of Sophisticated Soul Records label imprint and his latest album release, Chocolate Drops is another Prince Of Sophisticated Soul sensational musical gift for all with a brand new flavor for your senses!
Downing scheduled two important performance dates in April. For more performances cities locations, go to www.willdowning.com and tweet Downing
04/12/15 New Brunswick, NJ State Theatre
04/11/15 New York, NY B.B King Blues Club & Grill