I first became aware of Luther Vandross when I heard, and subsequently purchased, the duet he did with Mariah Carey of Endless Love in 1994. As great as Lionel Richie and Diana Ross are, Carey and Vandross made Endless Love their own in a version that not only payed homage to the original, but in my opinion, surpassed it. Carey’s vocal reach is simply amazing and I hope she eventually returns to the style of music that we heard from her in the early to mid 90s. She very well could have a lasting career that would rival Barbara Streisand’s should she stick with songs like Hero and Endless Love.
While I recall having both the CD single and cassette single, of Endless Love, it is the CD that I recall vividly as it was in its cardboard sleeve that simulated a mini-vinyl sleeve. I would play the CD quite often as it contained an instrumental version of the song, along with three other live, non-album tracks that included Never Too Much, Any Love, and She Won't Talk To Me. To be honest, I can’t recall those additional tracks, but undertaking this post allows me to once again explore music from my past. What I do remember was looking at the back of the sleeve where the cover image of Songs was displayed. I remember telling myself that I must get that album yet, for reasons I cannot recall, the album never came into my possession.
Songs, the album containing Endless Love, has been in my wish list for years. However, the vinyl edition has been out-of-print for 21 years. Yet, I was able to source a brand new, sealed, edition of the record at a reasonable price.
When it arrived by mail this morning, I was filled with tears of joy as I finally had a copy. Adding to the emotion was the knowledge that the copy I had, had been waiting patiently for me to play it some 21 years later. Music collectors will understand the excitement one goes through when we find that album that has eluded us for years.
Yes, you can stream the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi et al, but it isn’t the same and never will be.
As I opened the record, I wasn’t sure what to expect as 21 years is an incredibly long time for a record to be in situ. As I slid the record out of the sleeve, I noticed that the top corner of the inner sleeve was folded over. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this as this is a practice that was used during the 90s and the preceding decades. I’ve yet to come across any recently pressed albums that present the sleeve in this manner, so I can only assume it is no longer standard practice. I am led to believe that the folding of the corner was to facilitate easy packaging of the record into the outer sleeve for distribution.
So how does the record sound?
As good as the day it was pressed! There is a little sibilance on the inner grove, but that is common for vinyl. It is not bad, just noticeable. When I upgrade my Ortofon OM10 stylus to the OM20 in the next few weeks, that issue should resolve itself. Of course, there are some artists, such as George Michael, that have naturally occurring sibilance in their vocals. That said, Vandross isn’t one of them.
The mastering of Songs is spot on and matches the mastering that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and iTunes. In-fact the quality presented in the Apple Music/iTunes lossy edition is so close to indistinguishable, when compared to TIDAL Hi-Fi and the vinyl edition, that it isn’t funny. Therefore, a Mastered for iTunes edition would be irrelevant as no additional quality can be gained. This also proves that if mastering is done correctly at the studio level, then consistent results should be apparent across all formats. Yes, the vinyl record has the analogue tonality, but seriously the digital editions are remarkably ‘warm’ and inviting with a full sound.
Thankfully, there has been no remastering carried out on the album and it certainly doesn’t need it. While it is still available on CD, it appears a little more difficult to get hold of as not all retailers have stock, or even the option to order. Hence, I would suggest you pick up a copy sooner, rather than later.
As I was doing some background research for this post, I decided to have a look at Vandross’ discography and I noticed his last album Dance with My Father was released in 2003. Wondering why he had not released an album since then, further research resulted in me learning that that he passed away in 2005 at the age of 54. I was shocked and saddened to learn of his passing. While this may not be news for many of you, it is impossible to keep track of everything related to all artists the one is interested in.
Vandross dedicated his life to his music and subsequently didn’t have a family that his legacy could be left to. Hence, I’m not sure who owns the rights to his music, but while his albums are still available, untouched by greedy corporate music labels, I aim to collect as many as possible before they are gone and the inevitable remastered editions flood the market.
The undeniable truth about Songs is you will hear the classics, made into classics once again, by one of the most talented vocalists in history. Think Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, and Harry Connick Jr. all rolled into one voice and that still doesn’t come close to describing the vocal capabilities of Luther Vandross.
Throughout the hour long album, you will groove, you will sing, and you will want to take your loved one in your arms and dance a private slow dance to the masterpiece that is Endless Love.
Songs like The Impossible Dream are equally magical and while I’m not overly familiar with a number of the tracks presented on side 2, side 1 has Love The One You’re With, Killing Me Softly, Evergreen, Reflections, and Hello; all classic songs that I simply adore. Although, after several plays, songs like Always And Forever, are starting to become classics in my own mind.
Songs simply doesn’t have a b-side. Get a hold of this album and cherish it, I’ve no doubt you will love it. I know I do!