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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross

MUSIC REVIEWS

Various Artists-So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross (J Records)

After the tragic death earlier this year of one of the greatest soul voices of his generation, it is nice to see a tribute to this consummate artist and spine-tingly good singer who pretty much defined the quiet storm and smooth jazz genres.

The lineup here is spectacular, if a little too predictible; all classic soul artists who inspired Vandross like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin or young guns who were influenced by Luther like Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé, John Legend and Angie Stone.  It might have been nice to have a little more quirkiness and diversity, maybe longtime friends and collaborators from other styles like David Bowie or Richard Marx, or some of Vandross' contemporaries like Peabo Bryson, James Ingram, Jeffrey Osborne, Teddy Pendergrass, George Benson or Al Jarreau.

Musically, the recordings are mostly stellar, though inevitably just a bit too faithful to the originals.  Mary J. Blige completely nails Vandross' breakthrough single "Never Too Much" (though the spoken-word intro about Luther being a breath of fresh air on radio is a bit over-the-top; you're showing us Mary, you don't have to tell us.).  Usher smolders through "Superstar" and American Idol winner Fantasia does a surprisingly good and rather restrained (for her) version of "Til My Baby Comes Home."  Celine Dion also curbs her melodrama with a sweetly sung version of his final hit, "Dance For My Father."  Aretha Franklin, on the other hand, completely oversings "A House Is Not A Home" (and she also indulges in talking about Vandross at the beginning of the song.).  A studio created "duet" between Vandross and Elton John on "Anyone Who Had A Heart" works much better.  

You almost feel bad for complaining about a collection that was so obviously born of great love and respect.  One of the problems about doing a tribute album for Vandross, however, is that he was an interpretive singer who was well known for his own remakes of his favorite tracks.  Therefore, ten of these fifteen tunes were written by other artists and more than half of the tracks on this disk are better known for other people's recordings.  We have the odd dynamic of a tribute album where people are covering Luther Vandross covering Dionne Warwick ("A House Is Not a Home" and "Anyone Who Had A Heart"), the Carpenters ("Superstar"), Marvin Gaye ("If This World Were Mine"), Stevie Wonder ("Creepin'"), Heatwave ("Always & Forever") and Major Harris ("Love Won't Let Me Wait").  Vandross was a terrific songwriter as well, and more of the many popular songs that were actually written by him would be appreciated.  "Don't Wanna Be A Fool," "Stop to Love," "Give Me the Reason," "Bad Boy," "Any Love" and "There's Nothing Better Than Love" all spring quickly to mind.  There really should be more than five Vandross-penned tunes here.  (10/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright © 2005 PopEntertainment.com, All rights reserved. Posted: October 23, 2005.

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Copyright © 2005 PopEntertainment.com, All rights reserved. Posted: October 23, 2005.