The advance publicity surrounding the release of this, Will Downing’s 15th long player suggested that we were in for something quite different … and thematically, I suppose we are. Musically, however, ‘Love, Lust And Lies’ is no different to any of the big man’s fourteen previous efforts – that’s to say it has excellence stamped all over it– smooth soul personified, if you would. What’s more, it hosts a trio of three quite outstanding cuts that rival anything else Will has ever committed to record.
First though, let’s look at the theme. The LP is subtitled ‘An Audio Novel’ and it tells the story of an evolving relationship. The first third of the album sees a couple (Will and Dee) get together at a club and forge a partnership. The central section has the return of an old flame (Vanessa), the subsequent spreading of rumours and the demise of the original relationship. The end section has a regretful Will speculating what might have been before hitting the town again and embarking on a new romance –this time with Monica. We said this set’s subtitled a ‘novel’…. ‘soap opera ‘would be more appropriate given the predictability of the story and the shallowness of the central characters.
The music (and rather cheesy spoken interludes), naturally, move the tale along and we begin with a couple of party/club type things. Though, this being a Will Downing album, ‘Guess Who’ and ‘Shades’ are sedate rather than frantic. Other songs get into seduction mode (‘Tell Me’, ‘Consensual’), explain the confirmation of the relationship (‘Fly Higher’), tell of the break down (‘At This Moment’) and then outline the recriminations (‘Coulda Been/Shoulda Been’). The only song that – to me, at least – doesn’t seem to fit the scenario is the Dave Hollister collaboration ‘Safe In His Arms’. It’s a preachy, gospel thing and seems out of context – but then I’m no fan of soaps and maybe it’s essential to the storyline.
Then, those three great songs I hinted at. One is the aforementioned ‘Fly Higher’ – a lovely , lazy slow groove with Will in fine form. Then there’s the finger-clicking, languid beauty of ‘Saturday’ – quiet superb – leaving ‘Do You Know’ … a great soul song that would shine on any proper soul set. The three confirm that Downing is the consummate smooth soulster of his generation; indeed almost any cut here will leave you with the same conclusion. Musically, this is a great album.