Picks and Pans Review: Will Downing

updated 05/09/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Will Downing

A shadow looms over this debut album from Downing, a bountifully talented singer from Brooklyn. The shadow is that of Luther Vandross, the soul master on whom Downing seems to have patterned his style and from whom he has borrowed a number of sterling vocal tricks. Don't worry: The devices work for Downing too. And hey, you want a model, you could do a lot worse than Vandross. Downing in any event has a big-league voice, one of those invigoratingly passionate baritones that'll go right through your chest to your spine and set it tingling. Downing even produced his debut (with help on some tracks from Brian Jackson and Arthur Baker). He shows on sharply etched songs like In My Dreams that he has primo instincts for setting up instrumental and background vocal arrangements as well as singing in front of them. The album's most alluring track is a bouncy version of Free, a Deniece Williams hit a decade ago. That is followed by an effective cover of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, with Stanley Turrentine on sax. Based on that transition—Top 40 to jazz—it's clear that Downing has some range in his musical tastes. Overall, this is some very neatly tailored, classy R&B that bodes well for Downing's future, and not just as a Vandross disciple either. (Island)

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