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Soul Express Album of the Month - December 2007

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After Tonight

US Peak Records, 2007
1) Will's Groove 2) Fantasy (Spending Time With You) 3) After Tonight 4) No One Can Love You More 5) Lover's Melody 6) Satisfy You 7) All I Need Is You 8) God Is So Amazing 9) You Just Can't Smile It Away 10) After Tonight (Between The Sheets Remix)

For me, purchasing a new Will Downing album is a no-brainer. He has never let me down, and although I try not to place an artist on a pedestal for fear of having them unceremoniously knocked off (my recollection of Keith Washington's third and final album immediately springs to mind), it is hard not to place the man up there. “After Tonight” is, as far as I am concerned, the most consistent album that the man has delivered for some years. That is some feat considering the sheer quality of all his recordings.

This CD was recorded under debilitating circumstances, and I wondered how the Great Man’s voice would fare following such a devastating and wasting illness. Recorded from his wheelchair, “After Tonight” is a jubilantly defiant work that sees Will vocally undiminished. I do notice a very slight difference, but only that his lower notes remind me of a more sensuous Barry White. The deep bass rumble is there, the smooth expounding richness untouched and the wavering tenor undiluted. I regard the album as a triumph, no more no less.

My other fear was that Will would churn out a set of cover versions, as is the current trend, as Will is fond of covering his favourites. Having an almost biblical aversion to cover tunes, Will always comes off very lightly from me when he does. He picks some choice tunes and makes them his own. The killer cover on here is one of my favourite songs from Phyllis Hyman’s Buddah years; the Skip Scarbrough penned “No One Can Love You More”. Along with Gerald Albright, Will does an amazing job of both keeping to the spirit of the original AND still making it his own. This is a beautiful version; let’s not beat about the bush on this. The title track is also a winner, and the sexy lyrics should please his legion of female fans. It comes in two versions – both excellent. So take your pick!

Roy Ayers makes a guest appearance on “Lover’s Melody”, an uplifting jazzy, funky number that works very well. Roy Ayers is a legend, and he is a very welcome addition to any personnel list. Kirk Whalum is another star, and his warm sax serves well on the two superb songs “All I Need Is You” and “You Just Can’t Smile It Away”. This autumn has seen some seriously solid, essential sets. Along with the Embers and Impromp2 you really cannot do without this CD.
- Barry Towler

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