Leon Ware - Moon Ride (2008)

Leon Ware
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It's very likely that more people know Leon Ware's music than know than know the artist himself. There's a good reason for that. Ware has made some of the most recognizable and high quality soul and pop music of the last two generations. He co-wrote "I Wanna Be Where You Are," the Michael Jackson song that was on endless rotation on my parent's Hi-Fi stereo in the summer of 1972. Ware wrote "Inside My Love," the Minnie Ripperton soul classic that got introduced to a new generation when Trina Broussard remade it for the "Love Jones" soundtrack in the late 1990s. Other credits include "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," and "Rolling Down the Mountainside." But the two projects that best exemplify how enduring Ware is as the writer, arranger and producer of modern soul love ballads are the works he did for Marvin Gaye and Maxwell.

Ware wrote the songs for Gaye's I Want You album and served as the project's producer.

It's very likely that more people know Leon Ware's music than know than know the artist himself. There's a good reason for that. Ware has made some of the most recognizable and high quality soul and pop music of the last two generations. He co-wrote "I Wanna Be Where You Are," the Michael Jackson song that was on endless rotation on my parent's Hi-Fi stereo in the summer of 1972. Ware wrote "Inside My Love," the Minnie Ripperton soul classic that got introduced to a new generation when Trina Broussard remade it for the "Love Jones" soundtrack in the late 1990s. Other credits include "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," and "Rolling Down the Mountainside." But the two projects that best exemplify how enduring Ware is as the writer, arranger and producer of modern soul love ballads are the works he did for Marvin Gaye and Maxwell.

Ware wrote the songs for Gaye's I Want You album and served as the project's producer. Ware intended to release an album of his own containing most of those songs, but Gaye fell in love the with material and asked Ware to produce an album of the songs for him to record. More than 20 years later, Ware collaborated with nu soul love man Maxwell on the song "Sumthin' Sumthin'." That song also ended up on the Love Jones soundtrack. Ware's work with Gaye and Maxwell perfectly encapsulate his style as a songwriter, arranger and producer. Ware's music is sensual as well as sophisticated. The melodies, while understated, include nuances and tempo changes within songs that show a heavy jazz influence. The lyrics are erotic while leaving just enough to the imagination to remain appropriate to be played in mixed company

Like many talented people who toiled offstage to bring great music to the public, Leon Ware pursued his desire to perform his songs. Even when he was penning songs and collaborating with the A-list of musical who's who, Ware continued to write and record for himself. And the qualities and quality that he brought to his work with those legends can be heard in Ware's latest effort - the very good Moon Ride.

In fact, some people might say that Gaye (or Maxwell for that matter with a little Van Hunt thrown in) would feel right at home recording this material. The arrangements have a Marvin Gaye feel to them - right down to the vocal overdubs that allow Ware to perform the lead and backing vocals. Vocally, Ware's phrasing and intonation is similar to Gaye's. As a songwriter, Ware hasn't lost anything over the years. It's hard to pick one standout on this album of strong love songs, but "Just Take Your Time" is a jam that might get put on repeat when you want your lover to relax. "Loceans" is an erotic song about some of the sensual uses of lotion. The funky "Serving You Love" is another top choice. However, it's a chore to say that any song on Moon Ride is the best because the album is a tribute to a legendary songwriter and producer at the top of his game. Highly recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
World Premiere - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"
Album of the Month - Jeffrey Dennis - "Lovin On You"
Featured Album - Leon Ware - "Rainbow Deux"

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