Luther Vandross released his debut album “Never Too Much” in 1981. Vandross was 30 years of age when he released his first album which does seem quite late considering he had been around the music business for the previous decade with his vocal work on soul group ‘Change’ and he also performed a lot of backing vocals for ‘Chic’ and even ‘David Bowie.
Vandross was massive in the 1980’s but it was this album which started off a glittering solo career as it merged soul, disco, funk and good old fashioned singing. The key aspect of Vandross is of course the silky voice which in terms of great soul voices certainly has to be up there in the top 10. His range is on the same level as greats like Marvin Gaye and the emotive nature of his vocal can certainly mix it with the likes of Stevie Wonder.
Kicking off this album is the title track “Never Too Much”. This is arguably the most famous song Vandross ever released and even non soul music fans will probably be aware of this song given it’s heavy airplay over the last 30 years. The guitar rift is simply classic and it is one of the greatest songs of all time in my book. Vandross wrote and produced this famous hit.
“Sugar and Spice (I found me a girl”) is another gorgeous song. The live instrumentation feel to this track (and indeed the entire album) is what makes it. The combination of the guitar, drums and bass are out of the ‘Chic’ school of how to merge these sounds together to make a union. They do not compete – they compliment. Without one the other wouldn’t work.
“Don’t You Know That” is a exquisitely beautiful song. It’s a love song but its one of reaffirmation. His partner should already know how much he loves her and the question he asks in the chorus “Don’t you know that?” is almost tinged with a sadness that she isn’t aware.
“I don’t make no promises I can’t keep
And I promised myself that I’d love you forever
How many times must I say that
For you to understand the real thing”
This really is the most gorgeous song.
On “I’ve Been Working’ Vandross seems to address questions about not being in a relationship and essentially living a single life when it comes to being romantically involved. He is basically saying he has been working and needs some loving tonight.
“So don’t give me a forever love affair, no don’t you dare
(I like to freak)
To the one night beat, oh yeah
(Again and again, yeah yeah)
I work hard every day so I do what I wanna do
That’s why I’m steppin’ out (Stepping out)
To find me somebody to do what I wanna do”
“She’s A Supa Lady” contains one of my favourite bass guitar rifts of all time. The bass line starts the song off and for 35 seconds it is all about the standard drum sound and the bass absolutely killing it. If you are reading this review go and just listen to those first 30 seconds. The verse doesn’t kick in till 1m22 but that intro is so enjoyable. A great song.
“You Stopped Loving Me” is a Motown influenced song. Luther Vandross wrote the song for ‘Roberta Flack’ who peformed it for the soundtrack for the movie “Bustin’ Loose”. Vandross does his own version for his own album which sounds a lot better than than the Flack version.
The album finishes with a cover of the Burt Bacharach song (performed by Dionne Warwick) “A House Is Not A Home”. I think most people are aware of this song but the version from Vandross for me will always be the definitive version. Vandross takes this song to another place altogether. Never has a song spanning over 7 minutes felt as short.
The song like most Bacharach song is superbly written and Vandross interprets this better than any version (and there has been a few) I have ever heard. The emotion put into the song is as soulful as you will ever here. This song alone would have been worth buying the album for.
Luther Vandross was always given kudos for being a brilliant singer – both in recordings and in live performances. But he was never considered an ‘album’ artist like Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder. Perhaps it was because he was around in the 80’s and early 90’s where soul music has started to just delve into more disco orientated sounds which were not taken seriously but the music press.
This is a shame because this album is utterly wonderful. It’s just 36 minutes long but it is packed full of quality. There is no song you would skip which is always high praise for any album.