This past November, Will Downing released a tribute EP to the baritone singers of yesteryear entitled Romantique, Pt 1. Downing keeps the momentum going on the sequel EP Romantique, Pt 2, where he covers songs from Barry White, Larry Graham, Jon Lucien, and Brook Benton. Downing also includes two original songs on this set, something he didn’t do on Part 1.
Opening this EP is Downing’s take on Barry White’s “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me.”
I wasn’t that impressed with Downing’s version as he kept the original arrangements. The arrangement of the song is a classic, and it appears something was lost in the studio when recording the song. Downing’s voice even comes off as bland, which is a shock, given Downing’s vocal talent. Downing may have done better covering one of White’s ballads instead.
Thankfully on the albums next track “Ready, Willing and Able,” and one of the originals tracks, Downing gets back in the groove. The song starts with a jazz groove that showcases pristine Downing’s voice.
Up next is a cover of Larry Graham’s iconic wedding song, “One in a Million You.” I’ve always felt that was one of those songs that would be hard for anyone to cover, given the richness and powerful prose in Graham’s voice. Downing makes the song his own with a simple vocal and never tries to imitate Graham. Downing then returns to the new material with the EP’s second original song, “Close to You.” Amazingly, this is an up-tempo number, and I could easily see this song becoming a favorite for couples who hand dance and step.
Downing’s version of Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia” finds the singer experimenting in country music and gospel. The song has been covered numerous times in the past, and as music historians will tell you, Brook Benton’s version was a cover as well. Once again, Downing chooses not to over sing the song. Instead, he focuses on the production of the song itself.
Closing out the EP is a version of Caribbean jazz singer Jon Lucien’s “Lady Love.” Downing’s version has a sensual beat that would feel right at home in the Caribbean. The percussion production in the song also gives Downing a chance to do a bit of scatting, which is always welcome.
While not as strong as Part 1, Romantique, Pt 2 is still an enjoyable EP. Despite a misstep with the opening track, Downing has always had a 99.9 percent success rate with cover songs. Should Romantique Parts 1 and 2 start a new series of cover albums for Downing, I anxiously await the third installment.
Final Grade B
EP Highlights – “Ready, Willing and Able” “One in a Million You,” and “Lady Love”