Dreamy reveries, performed by Vandross at the absolute top of his game.
Daryl Easlea 2011-07-19
Although its successor, Give Me the Reason – Luther Vandross’ fifth solo album – was the one that truly broke him commercially in the UK, The Night I Fell in Love is arguably the point where everything aligned for this remarkable singer.
The album was recorded in AIR Studios, Montserrat: the playground for so many white rock artists in the 80s. It clearly benefitted all involved. Vandross said at the time, “We were out of town, so the band weren’t looking at their watches having a 4.30 Pepsi-Cola jingle they had to go do. Once you get someone away from that New York session mentality, their guard comes down.” And it’s true. This set follows a loose, free-flowing groove, with one track segueing into another.
There are three tracks on The Night I Fell in Love that offer a pristine case for Vandross’ defence: Creepin’, Other Side of the World and My Sensitivity (Gets in the Way). Creepin’ was a cover of a track from Stevie Wonder’s strangely unloved 1974 album Fulfillingness’ First Finale. Vandross explores every inch of the song’s latent sensuality, and delivers a rare improvement on a Wonder original. Other Side of the World finds Vandross pondering the invisible universe, wondering if love was never meant for him. He has found the one he loves, and loneliness may indeed be on the other side of the world; but there still seems some ambiguity that it may not be the right, lasting relationship.
My Sensitivity – a song that Vandross was to deem “absolutely personal” – is one of his very greatest tracks: breezy and soulful while featuring a lyric of extreme self-doubt. It is not too far a stretch of the imagination to mark him out as something of a soul Morrissey – the right person may never come along. When passing infatuation occurs, Vandross is full of uncertainty. It was this compassion which stopped him ever indulging in the full-scale bedroom braggadocio of peers such as Freddie Jackson or Alexander O’Neal.
The Night I Fell in Love is probably Vandross’ best solo album. Although his later, mid-period material was to become increasingly more ornate, and occasionally overexcited, this album is full of dreamy reveries, performed by Vandross at the absolute top of his game.