...if you like your r&b to be smooth and your songs to be grown-up, you're not going...
Jack Smith 2002
After more than two decades as the most celebrated soul balladeer in American soul, Luther Vandross isn't about to change a winning formula, and Dance With My Father is another faultless, high-gloss collection of love songs to follow his 2001 Luther Vandross release. 'I must admit I get so emotional', he sings early on, and proceeds to demonstrate the fact over a dozen tracks that contain no surprises, but will keep his considerable following more than satisfied.
Amongst the collaborations that one expects from r&b veterans these days, the high points are "If It Aint One Thing" with Foxy Brown and "Hit It Again" with Queen Latifah, both opting for restrained dance rhythms tailored to Vandross precise phrasing. (The latter has an opening line verging on self-parody: 'Well, by now you know I'm insatiable.') The low point is a version of Bill Withers "Lovely Day", with unnecessary interruptions from Busta Rhymes, which sounds like an exercise in marketing. Finally, towards the end, we get a characteristically beautiful harmonica solo from Stevie Wonder on "Once Were Lovers", that comes as welcome relief after an hour of predominantly programmed sounds.
Amidst all the tales of adult relationships, the title track is the one exception to the lyrical theme. Co-written and produced by Richard Marx, its a lament for the loss of a parent that avoids sentimentality and is genuinely touching.
Now in his early-50s, Vandross is so much the master of his craft, you cant help but want him to stretch out a little, take a few chances, maybe get a collaborator with some more imaginative ideas for instrumentation to match his own impeccable vocal arrangements. But if you like your r&b to be smooth and your songs to be grown-up, you're not going to argue too much.