Tag Archive: Classic Soul

There are three things that come to mind as I reach for the keyboard to review this or any other project involving the wonderfully gifted Luther Vandross. The first is the sense of privilege attached to doing it – a sense of doing something not many people get the opportunity to do, yet at the same time knowing that there isn’t really that much you can say that’s new to his many legions of fans the world over. The second thing that comes to mind is the sense of duty to do ‘a proper job’ of it and not get into unlimited, unabashed gushing and praise singing, bordering on the realm of hero-worship. However, since I’m also firmly of the belief in giving credit where credit is due, the final thought that comes to mind is that it would be ok to gush unapologetically where such gushing praise is required and….well….not do very much else, really! Plus, I would not be the first to tread that particular path.

There were two other poignant issues at hand at the time of writing this piece, which also added to the sense of occasion, for this writer at least. The first of those was that for all the influence and love that Luther had generated throughout his immense career, this was his first ever live album release. The second, which ties in with the first somewhat, is that he was on the road to recovery from an illness, a decapitating stroke suffered in 2003, following which his record label and family saw fit to put together this project for posterity and to commemorate his gradual recovery. In many respects, for this writer, there is always that sense of companionship inherent in every listen, at once as if Luther never fell ill, but also as if he had given this project to his fans and to the world, to keep them fulfilled until he could return to full fitness and perform once again.

OK, let the gushing praise commence! Where does one start exactly? The beginning would probably be a good place. The project kicks off with the evergreen “Never Too Much”, a song on which you’re made to feel welcome, as if listening to a friend and not just any old song! Luther is welcoming you to the party! You’re made to feel nothing is ‘ever too much’ to do for you. This is followed by oh-so-melodic “Here And Now”. Majestic is the word that comes to mind on the first and every subsequent listen – from Luther himself to his seasoned backing vocalists. The tone is set and you know you’re in for the ride of your life. The trend continues on “Take You Out” – what I deem to be the perfect Valentine’s song, lyrically and in tone. Something else strikes you at this point. There are not the usual ‘live album’ gimmicks here, no shortened tracks to quicken the pace and get through the set with minimal damage done. What you get are the songs themselves and in extended format. Cue his immaculate rendition of “Love Won’t Let Me Wait”, immediately followed by “Superstar”, all 13 minutes+ of it and one of many crowd-favourites, featuring an inspired mid-session piano solo by long-time musical director Nat Adderley Jr.

Every band member is on fire on this project and there’s no let up in pace and quality! “Stop To Love” is followed by the beautiful “If Only For One Night”. Stevie’s evergreen “Creepin” is at once memorable for his backing singers’ 19-straight mentions of the word ‘creep’. They pass every test Luther throws at them in flying colours! Nothing seems ‘ever too much’ for this classy bunch of performers. On almost every song, you get the impression of an artist at the height of his powers – the Michelangelo of ‘Sophistisoul’. Truly a timeless artist with a timeless sound and a timeless voice. One of the most influential of his generation. The list goes on. I’m sure you get the picture. Nothing you haven’t heard before.

Have I started gushing yet? If so, there’s only one reason for it. That’s because I am witnessing a “pure celebration” on this album. Luther himself leads that celebration and that is what makes the experience unique. Masterful performances, song after song and that’s the order of the night. It is a pure celebration of the human voice and it’s one that goes beyond lyrics. I hear that celebration within every note. The impression is that he not only knows the notes and utters them, but that he also respects them, cares for them and hopes that you do the same in hearing and experiencing the different pictures and landscapes he paints with them. A true artist in his element.

And still more quality to come. “I’d Rather” features more vocal acrobatics and outstanding harmonies in background singing that just leaves you speechless! It’s followed closely by another crowd-favourite “A House Is Not A Home” on which Luther again excels with another rousing performance. What’s new? The album closes out with a joyous version of the original Change hit “The Glow Of Love”, a song on which the listener can actually hear the happiness in the singers’ voices and you want to get up and start dancing. It’s a joyous farewell of “till we meet again” proportions and it’s obvious that the audience share that sentiment. As the song comes to an end and the audience joins in, you can’t help feeling they’re “…enraptured in the glow of loooove”. And how true.

I once read an article about Frankie Beverly of Maze falling badly ill after a seminal performance in London many years ago. You get that impression on this project too – as if Luther will probably need a holiday afterwards, such is his total input into every song, every note, right to the very last note of every song! You find yourself at once smiling and shaking your head in wonderful amazement – as if an angel had taken on flesh and started to sing! Then you begin to understand those who insist that for them, listening to music is a spiritual, life-affirming experience! At moments like these, you come close to understanding what they mean exactly. And that will be one of Luther’s legacies to soul music and to the world. In truth, an album every man, woman and child on the planet should own and undoubtedly worthy of a place in every music collection.

Now, if you don’t already possess this album, what are you waiting for?


Re-Introducing Stokley!

Stokley Williams is a super talented and critically acclaimed vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and all-round musician, who specialises in versatile and meticulously crafted vocal stylings. As the former front man of the seminal RnB group, Mint Condition, and now a solo artist, Stokley does not disappoint on his first solo album titled “Introducing Stokley”, which was released in 2016. Boasting a successful career spanning over three decades and several critically acclaimed albums with Mint Condition, this artist never misses a beat with his smooth vocals and versatile delivery. “Introducing Stokley” is rich full of evergreen romantic ballads harking back to the halcyon era of the soulful 70’s, as well as dynamic and funky uptempo jams that would light up any modern dancefloor.

More recently, 2021 brought us his eagerly awaited second album titled: “Sankofa”, which came on the heels of a relatively quiet period of activity due to the global Covid lockdown – a period during which Stokley was able to share part of the creative process of curating the album with a few privileged fans and friends via his Twitch TV online channel. There, his profile reads simply: “Drum beater, Vocal slinger & Sonic healer. Not DJin’ but MeJayin’ music from around the world and around the way. A place to chill, heal and virtual fellowship. Colorful sonic therapy for the everyday grind. All I love & wanna share. Welcome, Enjoy.”

His Twitch channel experience is truly one of virtual musical fellowship as described, and as experienced first hand during the global lockdown. “Sankofa” as the end result, further demonstrates his growth as an artist while featuring several impressive guest performers including the rapper Wale (Café), H.E.R. (Rush), Shakespeare! (Clouds), Snoop Dogg (Vibrant) and The Bonfyre (Cascade).

To sample some of that good musical experience and fellowship, you can find Stokley here: https://www.twitch.tv/sonichealer