1981, Music

Never Too Much (1981) by Luther Vandross

So first off, I don’t know if I’m seeing things but doesn’t Vandross look like Mos Def on the cover of this album? Anyway…

This is a pretty slick, funky soul album that verges into disco. It’s a sound I don’t particularly love in general but I’ve now listened to enough of it that I feel like I can sort of differentiate the good from the bad.

Vandross’ songs are shockingly catchy. As someone who has paid basically no attention to his career, I didn’t know he wrote such catchy songs. There’s definitely enough quality material here for an album of this length, and for the style. It’s impressive.

The lyrics are, of course, interesting. I know he never came out but it seems like it was an open secret he was gay. You can read what you want into the “you” in some of these songs, but some of the songs explicitly mention women. And it’s just a comment on the time, right? He couldn’t feel comfortable. It’s too bad.

Oh, and the Bacharach cover is fairly out there, which is a good thing.

Yes, the music is pretty slick. But it’s on the funkier side and not quite as robotic as “disco” implies. There’s definitely more feel and swing to most of these songs than there is in straight-up disco. Unlike many of his contemporaries Vandross hasn’t seemed to have forgotten what soul sounded like pre-disco. And I appreciate that.

He is, of course, the star. Though he isn’t showy (at least on this record), he’s a charismatic singer that successfully sells most of these songs enough for someone like me to enjoy, even though I really don’t like music this slick. It helps that he doesn’t sound super slick, just in terms of how his voice sounds.

Pretty good for what it is.


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