Picks and Pans Review: Never Let Me Go

updated 07/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Luther Vandross

For Luther Vandross, one of the finest pop-soul singers of the last decade, love is more than just a four-letter word; it's his muse, motivation and reason for being. A sure sign that the end of the world is near will be when Luther stops singing about love. Luckily he has an ideal voice for amore, strong yet laced with vulnerability, expansive yet deeply personal. Luther's songs are not flashy emotional excursions. His strength is in the subtle, delicate shadings that are revealed with repeated playing; often, you won't "get" a Vandross track on the first go-around.

Such is the case with his umpteenth ode to the power of love, "Little Miracles (Happen Every Day)." Bolstered by carefully layered and artfully displayed background vocals, the single is quietly triumphant. Likewise the majestic waltz "Love Me Again," which purposefully builds as the lush chorus swirls in and around Luther's falsetto leaps. He can also rock the house, as he proves on the chugging "Love Is on the Way," easing in and out of the song's spaces.

Vandross is such an effortless singer that he's able to coast on the voice alone, glossing over the album's weaknesses. Part of the problem is that he continually works with the same people. After nine records, tracks sound somehow familiar, arrangements repeat themselves, and experiments become gimmicks—as on his trademark "cover" medley, this time featuring the Bee Gees' sappy "How Deep Is Your Love." Luther imbues the song with a solemnity that is puzzling. There's much to love here, but given the power of the voice and the chart success he has enjoyed, it might be time for Luther to take some risks. (Epic)

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