Will Downing has been on a creative tear in the 21st century. Though he's released 14 albums in his 22-year career, he's issued eight of them since 2000. On his debut offering for Concord, Downing finalizes a project he's been working on for five years: a concept album. Lust, Love & Lies (An Audio Novel) is the most straightforward adult R&B recording of his career. With co-production by Downing, Chris "Big Dog" Davis, and longtime collaborator Rex Rideout, the jazzy side is left behind on this date, and all of Downing's energies are concentrated on an upscale, smooth-as-silk, 20-track investigation of various states of attraction, indulgence, love, betrayal, and romantic confusion with a host of players and vocalists. Among these tunes some brief, scattered spoken word interludes meant to serve as conversations actually add weight and heft to the plot, which is more complex than it might otherwise seem. While this is the most seamlessly focused record Downing's issued and taken as a whole is deeply satisfying, there are some standout cuts: the lithe, shimmeringly light funk on "Glad I Met You Tonight," the steamy babymaker "Consensual," the full-blown romantic soul of "Fly Higher," the heartbreaker "At This Moment," and the light club stepper "Coulda Been/Shoulda Been." The story is for the listener to decipher, but it does have an unexpected ending in the spoken word reprise of "Glad I Met You Tonight," entitled "Déjà Vu." From conception to production to sequencing to songwriting to performance, Lust, Love & Lies (An Audio Novel) is another watermark for Downing. That said, it will be interesting to see how longtime fans who have relied on his fence-walking talent between smooth soul and contemporary jazz will react to a strictly R&B album -- the guess is very favorably.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek