On July 1, 2005, the era of the stand-and-sing vocalist ended when Luther Vandross passed away at age 54. Without the compliment of sultry dancers and pyrotechnics, the late crooner was unmatched in the ability to captivate an audience armed only with his voice, his instantly unmistakable voice. Between 1981 and 2005, Vandross earned legendary status in soul music history, achieving a staggering 26 top ten R&B singles; more than Ray Charles, more than the O’Jays. As wonderful as hits like “Never Too Much,” “Here and Now,” and “Power of Love” are, there’s a wealth of overlooked material that’s equally as potent. With the release of Hidden Gems, it shall go overlooked no more.
Hidden Gems is a collection of songs seldom heard by the casual Vandross fan; 15 selections of album tracks, soundtrack cuts and modest charting singles. After hearing his angelic tenor finesse itself around mid-tempo ballads like “Buy Me a Rose” or songbook standards like “The Impossible Dream,” it’s evident that every Luther song is essential to lovers of music and lovers of love. There’s no doubt that Luther could’ve made his fans scream simply by singing the back of a cereal box, but Hidden Gems is far more enjoyable.
- Matthew Allen