Luther Vandross

His career on the resuscitator, Luther Vandross needs a pop makeover as badly as anybody, so on this comeback album, label head Clive Davis gives Vandross the Carlos Santana Special. A bevy of young songwriters and producers — R.L. from Next, Jon B, and Soulshock and Karlin among them — aims to make Vandross more sprightly, with midtempo synth beats, and more hip, with measured doses of ill-advised slang. Thing is, he doesn't need the help. Vandross' voice was one of the most supple R&B sounds of the Eighties, and the best moments here are the anachronistic ones — unadorned ballads like "Hearts Get Broken All the Time" and "I'd Rather" allow Vandross' pipes free rein to simmer and explode. By comparison, the "updated" Luther on "Take You Out" and "Grown Thangs" feels contrived. Santana might have needed other voices to make his guitar work sing, but Vandross' tender tenor is all the calling card he needs.