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R&B - Released January 1, 2003 | UNI - MOTOWN

Distinctions The Unusual Suspects
Leon Ware's classic Motown offering from 1976 came about as the result of another classic recording done by Marvin Gaye. Ware had written the single "I Want You" for a demo recording to score T-Boy Ross a recording contract with Motown. Berry Gordy heard it and told Ware he had to have the song for Marvin Gaye's next single. He took it to Gaye, who also loved it. Later, as Ware finished the tracks and orchestrations for his own album, he was playing it back for friends at Gaye's home when Marvin came out of a bedroom to inquire about what it was. He asked for -- and received -- all the tracks from Ware for the legendary I Want You album. This left Ware no choice but to compose an entirely new set of songs for his own record; the result is Musical Massage. (It should be noted that, according to Ware, Gordy, Gaye, and others felt he should also give this album away as a follow-up to I Want You, but Ware refused.) Musical Massage is the perfect mix of soul, light funk, jazz, and what was about to become the rhythmic foundation for disco. Picture the Motown song orchestrations with arrangements by Barry White for the Salsoul Orchestra and you get a bit of the picture. The disc opens with two smooth soul wonders in "Learning How to Love You" and "Instant Love." Strings dominate the melodic arrangement and Ware croons directly to them as Ray Parker, Jr. fills the lines with a silky but chunky guitar. Ware's mellifluous tenor is deep in the swell of strings and guitars as the rest of the band provides a shimmering backbeat for his soul crooning. On a re-recording of the track "Body Heat" -- which Ware had recorded as a duet with Minnie Riperton for Quincy Jones' album of the same name a year earlier -- Parker and bassist Chuck Rainey set a groove for Bongo Brown, Gary Coleman, and Bobbye Hall's percussion orgy. Ware's vocals, augmented by a three-piece female choir, cover the tune with dripping, seductive, sexual energy. Bobby Womack guests on the title track and "Holiday," while Gaye also lends a hand on the latter. Both tracks are spurious soul-funk workouts with fat, smooth grooves underlying Ware's gorgeous voice that melts the heart strings like butter, sounding like the whispering of satin sheets. Produced by Ware with Hal Davis and engineer Cal Harris, the disc has the same sweet, swaying feel as Gaye's I Want You but is a bit tougher, a little funkier in the breaks. The string arrangements by Dave Blumbery and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson are among the best the Motown studios issued to date. Ultimately, Musical Massage is a little-known classic from the supposedly twilight years of Motown. This record reveals Ware as a talented but undercelebrated visionary; he envisioned the evolution of soul and went about to bring it to fruition. Musical Massage is a watermark not only for Ware, but for Motown as well. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 17, 2010 | Rhino - Elektra

This is the follow-up to 1981's much loved Rockin' You Eternally. While that effort had Ware engaged and willing to do rich and melodic work with no commercial consideration, Leon Ware more often than not seems to be overly concerned with making a big hit. Leon Ware was co-produced by Ware and the legendary Marty Paich. Although Paich had everyone from young Ella Fitzgerald to Boz Scaggs on his resumé, there wasn't much he could do with Ware. Paich also arranged the rhythm here, which is undoubtedly Ware's forte. That's not to say Leon Ware is a dismal failure -- far from it. The first track "Slippin' Away" is Ware's best track here but it's reminiscent of a so-so track from Earth, Wind & Fire's Faces. In fact, Leon Ware employs some of the same players and writers from that effort. The oddly peppy "Lost in Love With You" was no doubt aiming for the charts but it possesses little or nothing of what makes Ware musically special. The track that comes closest to Ware's style is "Deeper Than Love" despite its smoldering sax solos from Gato Barbieri; the song is a little overdone. Perhaps the most telling is the duet with Flora Purim, "Somewhere." The track's promise seems to evaporate with the intro. If Purim wasn't going to light a fire under the proceedings, no one could. Throughout this effort, Ware's sounds wan and hemmed in. Given the fact that this didn't include many great songs, Leon Ware isn't the best way to get acquainted with the artist. © Jason Elias /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 17, 2010 | Rhino - Elektra

This 1981 set was the follow-up to Ware's 1979 classic Inside Is Love. This effort gave him more of a commercial opportunity with a bigger label. The good news here is that Ware didn't change his style that much and served as sole producer. Although one would expect Ware to pull out all of the stops, Rockin' You Eternally features the same likeable and spare band who offers smooth support throughout. Although Rockin' You Eternally is another great effort from Ware, it doesn't start off with a "classic." The first track, "A Little Boogie (Never Hurt No One)," is an odd dance request coming from someone who's known for begging for something else. The synth hook-laden "Baby Don't Stop Me" co-written by Laudir De Oliveira and Peter Cetera has Ware helping himself on backing vocals. On the pleading "Sure Do Want You Now," Ware's vocals are especially impassioned and polished. The hypnotic title track has Ware wanting an extended relationship as he sings, "Don't you know I'm rocking/For the rest of time." On this effort's best track, the instrumental "Don't Stay Away" possesses an intricate melody and a soaring string arrangement from Gene Page. The only bumble here is the final track. "In Our Garden" has Ware tackling the "big issues" about the suffering in this land. It's commendable but you'd just as soon hear him singing about romance. Luckily, the majority of Rockin' You Eternally has Ware doing just that. © Jason Elias /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2008 | Stax

Leon Ware is hardly a household name but he was one of Motown's most successful songwriters. His list of accomplishments is too long to list in its entirety here (see the bio) but they include writing Michael Jackson's smash "I Wanna Be Where You Are," working on Quincy Jones' classic Body Heat and Mellow Madness albums, and writing and producing Marvin Gaye's monster I Want You LP. He's also cut brilliant albums for Gordy and Elektra in the 1970s and '80s, and influenced singers and songwriters from Rahsaan Patterson andLewis Taylor to D'Angelo, and Bilal. Moon Ride is Ware's debut album for the revived Stax imprint. His late 20th and early 21st century self-released albums are a little thin in production -- due to a lack of a proper budget -- but they are musically astute and sophisticated. Ware's absolute lyrical and musical obsession with the topics of love, the sensual, and the divine are a constant on every record he's made, written or produced, and are on full display here. Because of its lush, elegant textures, open drifting songs, and laid-back romantic vibe, Moon Ride can be a little difficult to get a handle on initially. This is because it was constructed as an album, not a series of singles. It's a deep journey into the sensual by a master storyteller. The graceful sexy soul in the title track opens the album; it floats, hovers, and winds its way deep into the senses like an opiate. The undercurrent of guitars and funky keyboard lines surround the listener as Ware's amazing voice just comes through the ether to lay out the sensual truth. Hold onto the synth and guitar vamps and you're there, in Ware's zone. The joyous riff that opens "Blue Dress," is a fingerpopper, it holds the attention while going deeper into Ware's husky raw sensual expression. The gorgeous ballad "Hold Tight" follows it as a blend of jazz, urban soul, and Ware's impressionistic poetry all set a scene. "Take Your Time," was written with and stars soul-jazz guitar great David T. Walker; its depth and dimension are enhanced by plush production touches making it dreamy, wispy, and warm. If there's a single on this set it's "Smoovin'," a jazzy tune with a throwaway title and a killer hook offered by a blend of guitars, a strong yet subtle bassline, and David Foreman's overdubbed guitars. Add to this the backing vocals of James Ingram and you have a stone killer. Other standouts include "I Never Loved So Much," and a killer recut of "To Serve You (All My Love") off 2004's Deeper album that blows away the original. One can hear Marvin Gaye's ghost emoting through Ware's delivery as drummer Teddy Campbell's subtle breaks highlight the groove. (Ingram appears here too.) Fellow Detroiter Amp Fiddler cameos on "From Inside," an erotic slow burn of a ballad he co-wrote with Ware. He also plays keyboards on it. As the extra rhythm tracks appear on the refrain (a Fiddler trademark), Ware just takes his vocal right toward them and opens it all up to the listener's senses. The lasting impression from Moon Ride is that Ware remains an original; a pioneering artist who continues to evolve and who is perhaps more relevant today than in the '70s. He is a poet of the senses; for him music speaks a deeper more provocative truth: That the emotional and physical intimacy of lovers is where the Divine speaks directly. Moon Ride is a journey into the heart of that space, and the welcome, high profile return of a master. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1972 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

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Soul - Released August 19, 2012 | Expansion Records

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Funk - Released June 1, 2012 | Quieres Chicle Records

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Soul - Released July 23, 2013 | Stone Music Family, LLC

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Soul - Released January 1, 2003 | Kitchen Records

Issued on his own Kitchen label, Love's Drippin' marks Leon Ware's return to the U.S. recording market for the first time in 20 years. His previous three records were issued on the U.K. Expansion label. His last outing in 2000 was a jazz album with Don Gruisin and Oscar Castro-Neyes. Love's Drippin' marks the first soul album Ware had issued since 1995. It is also his finest recording since 1981's Rockin' You Eternally. Ware wrote or co-wrote everything here, played boatloads of instruments and arranged and produced the entire recording. Based on the title and the cheesy cover, one might get the misperception that this is a sterile rehash of earlier Ware glory years. While it is a mellow, funky soul record that grooves from start to finish, and Ware's signing has never sounded better, this set is a step forward in terms of production, composition, and vocal arrangement for Ware on the technical level. On the musical and emotional level, Love's Drippin' is a deeply satisfying, overwhelmingly romantic, lush album of fine songs that equates with his best work easily. The one interesting thing is that just like on Mickey Newbury's recordings of the late '60s and early '70s, Ware's album has the sound of dripping water running between every track, giving it a very unified, though not conceptual feel -- unless love is a concept rather than a reality. "Underneath Your Sweetness" -- with its gorgeous choruses and shimmering falsetto promising to deliver all the protagonist's lover wants and to do so sensitively -- is beyond macho prowess and is a paean to devotion. The funky groover "Saveur," written with M. Ragin, and featuring a delicate house rhythm track, is a love song that celebrates the eternity and mystery of women. Its soundscapes that slip in and out of the mix are engaging and do not distract from the groove. But the most outrageously beautiful and sensual track here is "I'm Ooin' You Tonight," with its scratchy backdrops, its juxtaposed slow funky rhythm, and Ware's whispers in both tenor and baritone before soaring into his trademark falsetto. Ware's reliance on a chorus and the promise of breathless lovemaking is turned in on the singer rather than on the beloved. Ware is still the master of sexy, steamy soul, and Love's Drippin' is one of those bedroom records that will, if anyone ever hears it, go down as a classy adult masterpiece. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Soul - Released August 14, 2011 | Expansion Records

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Miscellaneous - Released January 1, 1995 | Kitchen

Leon Ware is a perfect example of a vocalist who is much better known for his songwriting, producing, and arranging than his singing. As a songwriter/producer, he's truly a heavyweight, but Ware's own albums haven't given us a lot of major hits. If you're a serious soul collector, chances are that you have a lot of Ware's songs in your collection, even if you don't have any of his own LPs or CDs. It was in 1995 that Ware released the pleasing Taste the Love on his Kitchenware label. Seductive, smooth offerings like "I Got Your Recipe," "Cream of Love," and "Come Live with Me, Angel" recall Marvin Gaye's romantic '70s recordings (as opposed to his socio-political songs such as "Inner City Blues" and "What's Going On," or a party tune like "Got to Give It Up"), and that's no coincidence -- Ware co-wrote Gaye's sexy 1976 hits "I Want You" and "After the Dance." You won't find a lot of fast, uptempo numbers on this CD; Ware maintains a lush, romantic atmosphere and gives us an enjoyable collection of R&B/pop mood music. For those who have savored the romantic side of Gaye and the Isley Brothers, Taste the Love is definitely worth hunting for. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Soul - Released August 14, 2011 | Expansion Records

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R&B - Released January 1, 2005 | Kitchen Records

R&B singer Leon Ware has a light soothing voice. Backed by a Latin-flavored rhythm section, Ware performs a set of his own original material, some of it co-written with guitarist Sandro Albert. The music features light rhythms, occasional background singers and Ware's expressive but subtle voice almost entirely in the foreground. However none of the individual songs are particularly memorable and the rhythm section, other than Albert, tends to sound quite anonymous. This repetitive and rhythmic set works well as danceable background music but there is no reason to listen closely because nothing unexpected occurs. © Scott Yanow /TiVo