The most gifted male pop-soul singer of his generation, Luther Vandross has broken away from the macho chest-beating of the likes of Teddy Pendergrass by crooning instead of roaring at moments of high passion. Forever, for Always, for Love, his second solo album, hits emotional peaks when the singer is choking back his feelings in broken, soft-spoken phrases that transform intense sexuality into pure emotion.
The romantically atmospheric style of Vandross’ self-production perfectly complements his intimate, vulnerable delivery. The title cut, in which Vandross elaborates his passion with quivering redundancy, twirling the phrase “forever, for always, for love” over and over and savoring its nuances, is a gem of soft-focus, pyrotechnical pop singing and production. And “She Loves Me Back” rekindles the flame of Vandross’ first hit, “Never Too Much.”
A connoisseur of pop-soul oldies, Vandross also revives the Temptations’ “Since I Lost My Baby” and Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” in suave, handsome settings. By comparison, Vandross’ original songs are amorphous mood pieces built more around vocal arrangements than thematic concepts. And the relaxed, hovering atmosphere of Vandross’ productions are likewise more singer- than song-oriented. But by bending the conventions of pop to serve his vocal whims, Vandross has helped to expand and enrich a tradition that had become too locked into formulas.