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Leon Ware – 1972 – Leon Ware

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leon ware 1972 lp front

Sublime work from Leon Ware – the mellow soul master who’s one of our favorite talents of the 70s! This album is Leon’s first – recorded years before he did his records for Motown and Elektra – and it’s done with a less polished sound that’s a striking contrast to some of his more famous albums – a great beginning to a long career, and a strong illustration of the deep soul roots of Ware’s style and sound! Leon’s got a very spiritual approach in his vocals here – with touches of rootsiness that bring a lot of honesty to the album, yet which also still operate in the same sexy manner that we’ve come to love him for on later records.

leon ware 1972 lp back cover

In many ways, he’s one of the music industry’s best kept ‘secrets’ although staunch music fans from London and Los Angeles to Tokyo and New York City will readily attest to Leon Ware’s artistry as not merely a legendary songwriter and producer but as a brilliant artist and performer in his own right.  A music maker for four decades, Leon’s amazing list of impressive credits includes classic recordings by Quincy Jones, Minnie Riperton, Michael Jackson, Maxwell, Average White Band and of course, the late Marvin Gaye (whose Ware-written and produced “I Want You” LP remains a seminal Motown album).  Leon readily confesses that even with a catalog of nine of his own albums released since 1972, “I’ve never really been out there as a fully-fledged recording artist and performer because of my love for producing and writing. Now,” he emphasizes, “it’s time to do that…”

As a native of Detroit, Leon found himself writing for artists such as Martha & the Vandellas and Isley Brothers at Motown in the mid-’60s.  A collaboration with Ike & Tina Turner for a United Artists album led to Leon’s own first solo venture for that label in 1972, recorded while he was continuing to write hits for other Motown acts such as The Jackson Five and a solo Michael Jackson, for whom he penned the hit single, “I Wanna Be Where You Are”.  In 1974, Leon contributed the now-standard “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” as well as the title track to Quincy Jones’ breakthrough album “Body Heat”; a year later, he was celebrating more success with “Rolling Down A Mountainside”, a hit for R&B group The Main Ingredient and with Minnie Riperton via “Inside My Love”.

Leon began working on two projects at Motown in 1976, including a solo project; when label founder Berry Gordy Jr. heard the song “I Want You”, he wanted it recorded by Marvin Gaye.  Subsequently, Leon produced Gaye’s entire album of the same name, achieving tremendous success on the pop and R&B charts.  His own “Musical Massage” LP was issued by Motown later that year and regarded as a groundbreaking album, considered ahead of its time, it was reissued in 2003 to much critical acclaim.

Continuing to have his songs covered by plethora of artists (including Bobby Womack, Melissa Manchester, Sergio Mendes, Nancy Wilson, Isaac Hayes among others), Leon had his third LP release (“Inside Is Love”) in 1979 before completing two album for Elektra, “Rockin’ You Eternally” (whose title track is a bonafide soul classic in Europe and beyond) and a 1982 self-titled set.

Throughout the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Leon’s music was discovered by a whole new generation of young artists leading to creative samplings of his songs with the likes of Ice Cube, Tupac and A Tribe Called Quest; and other samples by Montell Jordan, Aaliyah, EPMD and Prince and more recently Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, John Legend & Jennifer Lopez, among others.  After recording his last four albums (all also released overseas by popular demand), Leon began meeting with executives at Stax/Concord in 2006 with an initial idea for doing a compilation of his work but after hearing some of the new material he was writing, the project evolved into MOON RIDE spurred on specifically by the song “Loceans.”