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Luscious, Lonely Luther

October 02, 1988|CONNIE JOHNSON

****LUTHER VANDROSS. "Any Love." Epic. Vandross' music never touches on the global, political concerns of Stevie Wonder's, but Vandross travels across the emotional terrain of the heart in a way that has made him as major a talent.

What you get in his music are elements of sadness, loneliness and sensitivity that few other male vocal stylists of the day express as convincingly.

Only too willing to fall, Vandross rarely presents himself as the man in command when it comes to romance. On "I Wonder," he's bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the same type of two-timer who got him down on his 1983 signature hit, "Busy Body."

It's that admission of frailty in the face of love's power that may endear Vandross to female listeners bored by the muscle-bound, ever-infallible stance of many male artists.

"Is it worth it all if there's no love?" he asks on one of this album's tracks--a question frequently addressed in Vandross' music. "My heart is weak from being strong," he announces on "Come Back," a song made poignant by the imploring support vocals of Cissy Houston.

Vandross' biggest strength, though, is his method of delivering a ballad in a manner so sumptuous that it dares you not to respond. His remake of Major Harris' "Love Won't Let Me Wait" is so meltingly impassioned that it adds fire to a song already at the blistering point. Whether on the triumphant or losing end of love, Vandross touches on each aspect with the frankness of someone not adverse to owning up to both.

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