To the untrained eye, silken-voiced Will Downing may seem merely an R&B journeyman, making solid, soulful records year after year, just on the edge of stardom. However, there has to be more to an artist whose first hit single is an update of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” And, indeed, EMOTIONS, the singer’s tenth album, features a jazz undercurrent (no, not Kenny G “jazz”), sincerely channeling the spirit of Bill Withers and Al Green records past.
EMOTIONS opens with a tender jam (gutsily “for the fellas”), “A Million Ways,” which asserts “making love ain’t just in the bed.” In this chronicle of the simple ways to please a woman, Downing creates such a smooth groove that the complexities of love seem rather basic. Later in the album, he manages to discover a new angle to the oft-covered “Hey There Lonely Girl,” his baritone contrasting with the falsetto of the most famous version. Will Downing’s been at it for decades, but he shows on EMOTIONS that after all this time, he can still summon up the most sensual recesses of the soul.