I Know (Virgin Records)
By: Sylvia White
This album is the first since Luther's split with his former record company, Arista, and if I must say so, a welcomed departure evidently. With his current album entitled, "I Know", Luther is imminently about to regain his audience that has faltered or even perhaps departed since his trend of not-so creative albums, namely the abomination entitled, "Songs". On "Songs" Luther tried his hand at beginning what now is a trend, remaking classics for no good reason except to evidently satisfy his record company with it's contract requirements. It failed, in a big way when it came to his R&B audience. Known for his soulful ballads and his ability to remake a classic into his own, he did not effectively come across, which hopefully taught a strong lesson and brought him closer to being released from his Arista contract.
Now on Virgin and with this album, "I Know", Luther finesses his way right back into the arms of his R&B fan base and he does it with such style and grace that I find it difficult to refute the fact that Luther is back! I can't say enough positive things about this album. Luther has managed to mesh many tastes into this rhythmic pot. He has his tender ballads, a bit of hip hop, some jazz, but more importantly, soul, something Luther has always been known for.
On his lead off track, "Keeping My Faith", he eases us into the album with a wonderful mid- tempo ballad that caresses the ear. "Isn't There Someone", one of my favorites, is one of his more tender and completely endearing songs that he may have ever recorded. It breaks the heart yet mends the soul. Magic indeed! On "Religion", Luther gets a bit funky-smooth on us with a nice baseline that keeps you groovin'. "Get It Right" shows him with his hip hop mode in full effect. This track if totally reminiscent of his 80's sound with such tunes as "Bad Boy Havin' A Party" and "Searchin'". It surely is a radio winner! On the titled track and my current favorite "I Know" we see the maestro get a little harmonica help from the genius of Mr. Stevie Wonder. My gosh, once I draw out my list of ?98's best releases, this tune will certainly be included. It is such a beautiful, folky, almost country oriented song. Gorgeous, and a tribute to both gentlemen's talents and endurance through the years. I love it! "I'm Only Human" is a duet which includes the jazz-stress Cassandra Wilson, with that gorgeous smokey voice that makes most women feel somewhat intimidated to even speak. A nice blend here of jazz influence and soul sass. "Nights In Harlem", Luther's first release from the album shows Luther at his playful best. This song let's you know that he had a good time making this album, it traces his New York memories while growing up and what a fun ride too.
"Dream Lover" again takes us back to his roots, when in the 80's he made it easy to listen to his harmonies in which he captivating us with his flair for ease of delivery. Very smooth track. His only remake on the album is "When I Need Love", formerly done by Leo Sayer, even here Luther is making it into his own. Good remake. "Are You Using Me" is a display by Luther and his vocal team to make a song sound oh-so good. The instrumentation, beats and jazz effects of this tune are groovy indeed. "Are You Mad At Me?", is another jazz influenced tune that rides so elegantly on the ear that it is guaranteed to get replay over and over in the cd turntable. Another favorite of mine. "Now That I Have You", a beautiful ballad, displays that Luther has not lost his vocal ability or his style.
Overall this album gets an overwhelming 5 from me. It is one of this years best come back's. I almost feel proud to tout this musical contribution for all that it is and it is surely Luther Vandross at his best in a long time. I welcome him back in the game with sheer joy. I had missed him for what seems like forever. Welcome back Luther, you prove with "I Know" that you are not down and out of the count, in fact you reinforce your legacy as being one of the true artists as well as what I consider to be the only male diva within the R&B genre. Sheer perfection, pick up your copies today R&B fans!
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