Title: Classique

Artist: Will Downing

Label: Peak Records

Format:  CD

Catalog No.: PKR-31278-02

Release Date: June 16, 2009

Will Downing‘s 14th album, Classique, marks his 20th year as an R&B recording artist.  Downing returns to the scene bringing his trademark silky vocal stylings with him. The Brooklyn native’s first album was released in 1988.  In 1991 he made a huge impact with his cover of Angela Bofill’s “I Try.” Then in 1992 his duet with Rachel Farelle “Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This” became an anthem for true love.  After being diagnosed with polymyositis in 2007, the talented vocalist battled to recover his strength from the muscular inflammatory disease.   After Tonight, his 13th album was completed while going through treatment for the chronic illness and is a testament to his inner strength.

With Classique, his second album since his diagnosis, Downing continues to croon to his audience. His vocals range from an earnest tenor to a seductive baritone and the work showcases the smooth style that first brought him fame.  Opening with four tunes co-written by Downing, Classique sets an intimate mood, fit for contemplating the ins and outs of romance.

Downing puts his stamp on the work of R&B legends in Barry White’s “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Baby I’m For Real.” Slow Jam aficionados will recognize the voice of Phil Perry on the Gaye tune.  Perry, who made quite a splash in the early ‘90s with his cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Call Me,” brings his distinctive tenor and high range to this duet with Downing.  Showing that they have mastered the tropes of an effective seduction song, Downing and Perry have crafted this piece into one of the high points of the album.

Another standout song is “Just Think About It.”  One of the six pieces co-written by Downing,  it features very effective guitar licks and a subliminal church organ, creating a very compelling piece which asks the listener to consider giving love one more try.   The final cut, “Statue of a Fool” by David Ruffin of Temptation’s fame, continues the tradition of rueful songs like Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown,” lamenting the devastating effects of love gone wrong.

Here’s the video for Downing’s new single “Something Special” from Classique:

Overall, Downing weaves quite the romantic web with Classique.  The mood created on this album is one that R&B enthusiasts who value the tradition of the slow groove, the smooth vocal, and passionate delivery will well and truly enjoy.

Reviewed by Delia Alexander