Leon Ware is one of those much-respected, behind-the-scenes guys whose solo careers don’t get much attention. He’s far removed from his days as a hit songwriter for Michael Jackson, Ike & Tina Turner, and Marvin Gaye, whose I Want You is his crowning achievement. However, he’s managed to stick around long enough to become an influence on a variety of modern R&B and hip hop stars, who have sampled his work. Now, after a string of self-released projects, Ware is back, on the reactivated Stax label with his highest-profile release in decades.
Moon Ride adheres closely to the ultra-romantic, dreamy, mildly jazzy R&B ballads and midtempo numbers with which he made his name. The soulfully atmospheric title track is a perfect example, bedroom music on an almost subliminal level. But Ware, at 68, can’t sustain the momentum for very long. The ballads are pretty and sparkling, but don’t stick. At best, most of the mid-tempo numbers sound like Steely Dan without the irony. Attempts at a more pop-oriented sound, such as “Blue Dress”, are hopelessly outdated. Fellow soul vet James Ingram provides some nice backing vocals, but the production is mostly thin and cut-rate sounding. It’s nice to see Ware still at it, but Moon Ride is for diehards only. Other curious parties will find Ware much better represented on his Musical Massage, from 1976.