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Leon Ware

Moon Ride

(Stax; US: 12 Aug 2008; UK: Available as import)

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 Attempts at a more pop-oriented sound, such as “Blue Dress”, are hopelessly outdated.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.


John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.

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