Following After Tonight by two years, Classique is Downing's 14th album. Highlights of Classique include the hypnotic tick-tock pulse of "More Time" (a recurring theme of Will's regarding finding more hours in the day for love); the feel-good summer groove "Something Special," and "I Won't Stop," a passionate backbeat driven declaration of eternal love. He waxes especially spicy on the clever "Just Think About It" and shares sexy vocals with singer Sherrida on the funky call and response Love Suggestions."
Three songs on the album were originally made famous by three legends of Soul. The first is "Baby, I'm For Real," a monumental 5-weeks-at-#1 smash first penned, produced and arranged by Marvin Gaye in 1969 for his favorite Motown vocal quartet, The Originals. Will recaptures that group vibe by sharing the mic with Phil Perry, whose powerful tenor and trademark falsetto flights play dynamically against his own smooth baritone. Perry, who was a member of just such a singing group called The Montclairs, taps into that experience with overdubbed harmonies.
Next is a stroll through Barry White's very first hit from 1973, "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby," Will's version of which also recently graced the Rideout-produced compilation The Strength of a Woman (in support of breast cancer research for African American women). Finally there's Will's version of original Temptations lead tenor David Ruffin's 1976 solo masterpiece "Statue of a Fool" (a.k.a. "Name It After Me"), a cover of the 1969 Jack Greene country classic that is among Ruffin's most poignant recordings. Will tenderly delivers the evocative lyric as well as the heavenly backing harmonies for a rendition that goes straight to the heart.
Beyond the music, Downing is a conscientious humanitarian. Recently he has become a spokesperson for the American Stroke Association which has become even more important to him in the wake of prominent victims such as Luther Vandross, Ron Isley and Coretta Scott King. Whenever possible on tour, Downing conducts the charity bowling event "Strike Against Stroke" to raise funds towards greater stroke awareness and education in the African American community, which is disproportionately affected. The American Heart Association honored Downing by naming him as a Celebrity Ambassador in their Power to End Stroke national campaign. Off the road, Will indulged his love for photography by self-publishing the 2005 coffee table book Unveiled Series I, and relishes his ultimate life roles of loving husband and father.
WILL DOWNING CD Signing
Tuesday, June 23
Harold Washington Cultural Center
4701 S. Martin Luther King Dr.
WILL DOWNING CONCERT
7 pm July 25
Country Club Hills Theater