Your Secret Love

Luther Vandross

Epic Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: George Agnos

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/02/1998

Luther Vandross is quite simply one of the finest singers in popular music today. You would be hard pressed to find another singer with such a sweet, expressive, soulful voice, especially in the adult contemporary genre as it stands where the histrionic over-the-top singing of Whitney Houston is preferred. On his 1996 release, Your Secret Love, Vandross, definitely a pro at this point, has created a well-crafted album that should please fans. However, he has also created an album that fails to avoid some of the pitfalls and flaws found in many adult contemporary releases.

Vandross, who also produced Your Secret Love, wisely starts off with the winning title track. He needed a strong single to follow up 1994's "The Power Of Love" and he got it here on this midtempo ballad. Vandross' singing expresses effectively the apprehension of being the other man in a secret relationship. His singing shines again on the winsome ballad "It's Hard For Me To Say" about a guy too shy to express his love.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"I Can't Wait No Longer (Let's Do This)" is probably the most talked about song on this collection because he duets with rapper Deidra "Spin" Roper of the group Salt N' Pepa. This playful track adds a needed contemporary touch to the album. If you think this combination is as absurd as Metallica working with Marianne Faithful, don't forget that Vandross is not only a ballad singer but can sing R&B as well, and here his singing does compliment Roper's rapping.

But Vandross' forte is his interpretation of other people's songs, so it is no surprise that this album boasts two inspired covers. He tackles the little known Stevie Wonder tune "Knocks Me Off My Feet" and revives the old standard "Goin' Out Of My Head" making both of them his own. Nat Adderley Jr.'s arrangements compliment these songs with a light jazz feel. "Crazy Love" (not the Van Morrison song, but written by a group of songwriters) is one of those show-stopping type of ballads that Vandross sings the heck out of without sucking the life from it.

But now here are the pitfalls: the second single "I Can Make It Better" is an uptempo number with very little life to it. And "Love Don't Love Here Anymore" and "Too Proud To Beg" are good titles but are uninspired, by the book type ballads. Then there are "Nobody To Love", "Whether Or Not The World Gets Better", and "This Time I'm Right" which are nice songs individually, but they all have very similar melodies and unfortunately are sequenced together.

And here lies the problem with Your Secret Love: Vandross is a better singer than songwriter, but here he has written, at least in part, eight of the twelve selections. Sure, some of his songs are very good, but he does not have enough of those to fill an album. Nevertheless, if Your Secret Love isn't exactly a masterpiece, it is a pleasant listen. Vandross once again has turned in a masterful performance.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.