The 1989 release The Best of Luther Vandross captures Vandross at the peak of his powers, chronicling the '80s, when he reigned as the premier soul crooner of his time. That remains the definitive portrait of Vandross at his creative pinnacle, but 2003's The Essential Luther Vandross extends its reach much further, stopping when Vandross left Epic in 1996. So, it becomes a summary of his time at the label, and it's a thorough one; it may not be sequenced chronologically, but it hits all the big songs.
This collection documents the two-decades-plus recording career of R&B icon Luther Vandross. Even before he started putting out records under his own name, he was a first-call session singer (he's the one who created and sang the chorus hook on David Bowie's "Young Americans," for just one example). Throughout the '80s and the '90s, he was (both commercially and aesthetically) one of the most consistently successful R&B singer/songwriter/producers. This healthy two-disc selection of highlights from the impressive Vandross catalogue moves deftly from heartfelt ballads ("A House is Not a Home") to percolating, poppy numbers ("Never Too Much"), spotlighting the man's mellifluous voice and tasteful phrasing at each turn. This is quite clearly the definitive career summary for this deeply influential R&B titan.
Luther Vandross pours his heart and soul into Dance with My Father's title track, an ambitious kickoff single that misrepresents an album where most highlights are down-tempo. Vandross' own serious ailment at the time of the single's release makes the song's references to absent loved ones even more poignant. In top form at the time of recording, he is able to deliver the song with a voice strong enough to handle the monolithic sentimentality of the lyrics and Richard Marx's swollen production. The six-minute, sensual quiet storm "The Closer I Get to You" is the other high-profile track, a duet with Beyoncé Knowles holding her own with Vandross' perfect phrasing.
Playing the role of R&B love god has always come naturally to Luther Vandross. On his Virgin debut, he eases into his groove once again. Whether he's dealing in the easy, gospel-inflected pop of album opener "Keeping My Faith in You" or the jazzy hooks of the title track (with Stevie Wonder guesting on harmonica), Vandross is in command. While the faux hip-hop of "Get It Right" (with rap by Precise) seems a bit forced, the disc is strong overall. R&B doesn't get any glossier.
In a way, it's a shame that Luther Vandross' Songs, his 1994 album of other people's hits, became the biggest hit of his career, for it obscured one of his greatest talents: songwriting. The best soul singer of the '80s is back with Your Secret Love, his first album of original, non-Christmas songs since 1993's Never Let Me Go. He hasn't lost his knack for big, emotional melodies and for scenarios that find happiness tantalizingly close, but still out of reach.
Never Let Me Go is the eighth studio album (ninth overall) by American R&B recording artist Luther Vandross, released on May 26, 1993 in North America by Epic. It was his first studio album not to chart at #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The title track was originally recorded by Johnny Ace. The album became the third consecutive top-ten album on the Billboard 200 for Vandross, peaking at number six. His cover of the Bee Gees hit, "How Deep Is Your Love" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 36th Grammy Awards in March 1994. Additionally, album cuts "Little Miracles (Happen Every Day)" and "Heaven Knows" received nominations in the Best R&B Song category.
No ten-track compilation could possibly come close to providing the most casual Luther Vandross fan with what she or he needs. That said, S.O.U.L. – part of an extensive line from Sony Music Special Products – is a relatively cheap disc that does offer a decent sampling of Vandross' hits across three decades, from 1981's "Never Too Much" to 2003's "Dance with My Father." Other essentials, such as "Give Me the Reason," "A House Is Not a Home," "Power of Love/Love Power," are included, but this is a mere fraction of the singer's excellent output.
The Night I Fell in Love is the fourth studio album by American R&B singer-songwriter Luther Vandross, released by Epic in March 1985. In 1986, Vandross garnered a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and two American Music Awards, Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Album. The first single "'Til My Baby Comes Home" is notable for featuring Billy Preston on organ. The Night I Fell in Love reached number nineteen on the US Billboard 200 album chart and topped the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, it was ranked #93 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s. The album was later be certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
The 2006 version of The Ultimate Luther Vandross swaps out some of the earlier cuts contained on the 2001 version in favor of later material, such as "Dance with My Father" and he and Beyoncé's version of "The Closer I Get to You". What's baffling is that it leaves out some major hits in favor of a pair of previously unreleased tracks (including the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-produced, Chic-sampling "Shine"), and the ballad Got You Home which could serve as a sequel to Take You Out (from 2001's Luther Vandross), both of which are front-loaded in the sequence. Vandross was clearly one of the greatest singers of all time and this collection shows it.