Luther Vandross - Live 2003

Needless to say, this recording was made two months before Luther Vandross suffered a major stroke in April of this year and until such time as Luther Vandross recovers, this will remain his final release before that event.

For fans of Luther Vandross, the smooth sound of Live 2003 at Radio City Music Hall will be all too familiar. Despite his having such a short time in which he enjoyed mainstream success, Vandross' career has been bookended by periods in which his writing and production of soul and light R&B was influential. As an example, look at how Beyoncé Knowles called on him for this year's Dangerously In Love.

This album finds Vandross on his own at New York's Radio City Music Hall but for the backing of a solid band and four female backing singers and whilst the music is given the occasional shakeup, this is as tight as the original recordings. Of course, what the fans would say is that it's all in the voice and whilst the crooning has eased off a little, there should be a sufficient number of beside caresses from Vandross to make it all worthwhile. Nothing, however, is ever unpredictable and if the band sound rehearsed then it's likely that they've been drilled such that not one note ever goes astray nor that a single line is ever sung flat.

Vandross is as ebullient a host as ever but prone to enthusing a little too much as almost every song on Live 2003 is introduced as being his favourite but the fans in the hall forgive him this as he turns out a mix of his own songs - Never Too Much and Stop To Love - as well as those by others including Russell and Bramlett's Superstar, Bacharach and David's A House Is Not A Home and Stevie Wonder's Creepin'.

If you don't like to be troubled too much by what your listening to and the thought of anything particularly abrasive fills you with dread, then Luther Vandross will be as soft and gentle as you could hope for. For the rest of us, it's hard to tell what's getting the fans so excited but such is the lot with live albums. Mostly, we'll just wonder if they're watched the same tired gig that we're hearing.



out of 10

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