There’s a sensual symbiosis between sex and strings in Barry White’s aural bedroom. The strings sweeten the carnality, make it grand and embracing, while the erotic intimacy of White’s delivery gives the heavenly baroque arrangements an earthy immediacy. When the balance tips, White’s love recipe just don’t taste right.
His long-awaited Staying Power — the successor to 1994’s double-platinum The Icon Is Love, the album where the maestro got his groove back — doesn’t skimp on orchestration, but it’s often lost in a mix that tries to step to the digital present. Offered in two alternate duet versions, one featuring Chaka Khan and the other with Lisa Stansfield, “The Longer We Make Love” gets busy with the violins and ranks with the singer’s classics. Others, like Puff Daddy’s rap-festooned production of the Sly Stone cover “Thank You,” seem unnecessarily desperate for radio action. White is still talkin’ that talk, rhyming “emotion” with “nature’s body lotion,” yet the results remain stately and subtle when they could be sweaty and stirring.