Vandross creates his own universe with his loved one at its very centre.
Daryl Easlea 2009-10-07
Forever, For Always, For Love is a remarkably sweet record that captured Luther Vandross at an early peak. By 1982, Vandross had been recording for the best part of a decade. A respected session singer, he’d come to wider attention singing on David Bowie’s Young Americans album and on Chic’s biggest hits. Sadly, his early attempts at recording with his group, Luther, had been met with general indifference in the mid 70s. However, his vocals on The Glow of Love by Change in 1980 recast him as a ballad singer and his debut solo album, Never Too Much, followed a year later.
Although his superstardom was still a few years ahead, Forever, For Always, For Love helped consolidate Vandross’s achievements in the US, and was a word-of-mouth success in the UK. Through an astute choice of material and support from regular sidemen and arrangers Nat Adderley Jr and Marcus Miller, Vandross created his own universe with his loved one at its very centre.
Vandross’s interpretation of soul classics is unusual, because he neither slavishly copies nor significantly attempts to rework them. His understated approach makes them his own, most obviously here on The Temptations’ Since I Lost My Baby. Taking the original, he makes it a languorous stretch, with emotive backing vocals from Chic choir stalwarts Fonzi Thornton and Michelle Cobbs. His own Bad Boy segues into Sam Cooke’s Having a Party. Of the originals, the title track and She Loves Me Back stand out. It sounds like soulful New York in the early 80s, and UK suburbia by the middle of the decade.
Luther Vandross is often sniggeringly undervalued in British music circles, as some light-footed patron saint of saccharine, white-sock R&B. Frankly that would be like saying Jimi Hendrix could strum a few chords. His voice was one of the most precious in soul, infectious and expressive yet seldom overwrought, no matter how many extra syllables he inserted into his lyrics. Forever, For Always, For Love, while not his best album, shows him as a master at work, enjoying every second of his solo career.